Two-Fifths of Russians Uncertain Over Need for Ukraine Loan

MOSCOW, January 25 (RIA Novosti) – Around two-fifths of Russians have no idea why their government has committed to lending crisis-hit Ukraine $15 billion in taxpayer money, a survey has revealed.

The loan announced in a surprise move late last year was designed to steer debt-strapped Ukraine through a potentially devastating looming balance of payments of crisis. As part of a support package for Kiev, Russia also committed to substantially lowering natural gas prices.

While 76 percent of respondents quizzed by state-run VTsIOM said they were aware of the loan, 39 percent could not say why the Russian government was issuing it.

A combined 30 percent said in the poll, released Wednesday, that the aid package would help a traditional ally and “fraternal nation,” echoing an explanation proffered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Another 31 percent cited geopolitical or economic interests.

The option of “[Putin’s] dripping with money and help everyone but his own people” scored 3 percent. The fatalistic “he knows better” was cited by 1 percent.

The poll was held before this week’s outbreak of street fighting in Kiev and covered 1,600 respondents. VTsIOM says the poll has a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Putin announced the $15 billion loan in December, a few weeks after his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych unexpectedly bailed out of an association agreement with the EU.

Most of the money will come from the National Welfare Fund, created in 2008 to support Russia’s flagging pension system.

Putin insisted in December that the loan was “repayable money” issued in the form of Eurobonds on the Irish stock exchange, and that it would therefore not go to waste.

Yanukovych’s turn to Russia in late November has sparked long-running protests in the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, that escalated this week into bloody infighting between police and rightwing demonstrators.

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