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Putin says Russia's bailout for Ukraine not linked to its talks with the EU, street protests

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks at his annual news conference in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)The Associated Press

President Vladimir Putin says Russia's $15-billion bailout for Ukraine is driven by a desire to help a partner in a desperate situation and isn't linked to its talks with the European Union.

Putin told a news conference Thursday that Russia decided to buy $15 billion worth of Ukrainian securities and slash the price for Russian natural gas shipments to Ukraine to help a "brotherly" nation.

He adds that the move is driven in part by pragmatic considerations, as Ukraine has been an important customer for Russian gas and a key partner in industrial cooperation since Soviet times.

The Kremlin's move comes as Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych faces massive street protests over his decision to spike a pact with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia.