KIEV — Ukrainian officials on Wednesday praised a financial aid package from Russia as the country’s only hope to prevent economic collapse, although it was signed in defiance of a large and sustained protest in the capital.
“Today, I can firmly announce that the crisis moment has passed,” the country’s prime minister, Mykola Azarov, told Ukrainian news media. “We have a new and firm perspective of confidence. We will maintain social and financial stability. Now, nothing threatens the financial and economic stability of Ukraine.”
On Tuesday, President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin of Russia said that Russia would come to the rescue of its financially troubled neighbor, providing $15 billion in loans and a steep discount on natural gas prices.
The announcement seemed to have a deflating effect on the protesters, a tired and haggard group after spending more than three weeks encamped on Independence Square. A church choir sang. Protest leaders asked for patience as they scrambled to devise a new strategy.
The protests were ignited by the government’s last-minute failure to sign political and free trade accords with Europe, which had been seen as an alternative to the Russian deal.
Their demands, though, had expanded to seeking punishment for the police, accused of violently attacking demonstrators, and the resignation of Azarov.
The government is now prepared to negotiate with the protesters over those demands, Viktor Pinchuk, one of Ukraine’s most powerful businessmen, said in an interview. Concessions now from Yanukovych on these domestic political issues could defuse the demonstrations, even though the main demand, for European integration, went unmet.
On Wednesday, opposition leaders said they had moved closer to obtaining enough votes in Parliament to dismiss the government of Azarov, signaling the shift in emphasis to domestic political issues.