* Ukraine turned back on EU pact in favour of Russia
* Russia agreed $15 bln bailout, gas price cuts
By Adrian Croft
BRUSSELS, Dec 18 Ukraine could have been in line
to receive at least 19 billion euros ($26 billion) in European
Union loans and grants over the next seven years if it had
signed a trade and cooperation agreement with the bloc,
according to internal EU estimates.
Ukraine last month abandoned plans to sign the trade
agreement with Brussels at the last moment in favour of closer
ties with former Soviet overlord Russia, sparking huge
demonstrations in protest.
Desperate for cash to cover a big external funding gap,
Ukraine turned to Russia, which on Tuesday agreed a $15 billion
bailout for Ukraine and slashed the price of gas exports.
The EU has steered clear of getting into a bidding war with
Russia for Ukraine, and the only specific amount it has talked
about publicly has been a 610 million euro loan it was prepared
to offer Ukraine if it met conditions for receiving help from
the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
But internal EU estimates shown to Reuters showed the total
EU loans and grants to Ukraine between 2014 and 2020 would be at
least 19 billion euros, provided Kiev signed the trade deal with
the EU and reached an agreement with the IMF.
An EU source said this was a conservative figure and it had
never been mentioned to Ukraine officials during negotiations on
the trade pact.
"We will never be in the business of window-dressing or
competition to propose more money because our offer is not about
money," the source said.
The figure is not far short of the 20 billion euros in aid
that Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said last week he
was seeking from the EU to offset the cost of signing the EU
deal. The EU disputes Ukraine's estimate of how much it will
cost to adapt its economy for the trade accord.
The EU had been prepared to advise Ukraine on reaching an
agreement with the IMF if it had signed the deal.
If Ukraine had reached an agreement with the IMF and met its
conditions, the EU would have agreed to a "fast-track
disbursement" of a first package of financial aid for Ukraine
and would have been ready to begin work on a second package of
financial aid, the source said.
Once Ukraine had signed the trade agreement, the EU had been
ready to organise an investment conference bringing together
donors and the private sector to invest in the country.
While the EU has stressed that the proposed trade agreement
with Ukraine remains on the table, and Ukraine's first deputy
prime minister Serhiy Arbuzov said last week Kiev was ready to
sign it, EU officials see little hope of any movement soon.
EU enlargement chief Stefan Fuele told Arbuzov last week
that, if Ukraine gave a clear commitment to signing the EU deal,
the EU would work with Kiev to prepare a roadmap for
implementing the agreement.
But Fuele said on Twitter on Sunday that he was putting that
work on hold because Ukraine had failed to provide the