KIEV (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich is stopping off in Russia to have talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on his way back home from an official visit to China, Ukraine’s UNIAN news agency said on Friday.
“The president of Ukraine, on his way back home from China, will make a working visit to Sochi, where he will hold negotiations with his Russian colleague Vladimir Putin,” UNIAN quoted an “informed source” as saying.
Yanukovich, who has been on a four-day trip to China, had been due on Friday to return home to his troubled country which is in turmoil following his government’s decision to pull back from a landmark pact with Europe and turn trade policy back to Russia.
In Moscow, there was no immediate confirmation of the meeting in Sochi, on Russia’s Black Sea coast. Aides to Yanukovich were not immediately reachable because they were travelling with him.
Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, would neither confirm nor deny the report, saying: “We are being silent for now. When the time comes we will say.”
Thousands of pro-Europe demonstrators have set up an encampment on Kiev’s main Independence Square and occupied public buildings in protest at Yanukovich’s U-turn in policy.
Analysts say Yanukovich’s government has struck a bargain with Russia’s Putin, including for supplies of cheaper Russian gas and possibly credits, in exchange for backing away from signing the trade pact with the EU.
Additional reporting by Alexei Anishchuk; Writing By Richard Balmforth; Editing Matt Robinson