The Russian discount was part of a financial lifeline that Putin offered Ukraine’s now fugitive president, Viktor Yanukovych, after his decision to ditch a pact with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Moscow. The move fueled three months of protests that sent Yanukovych fleeing to Russia in February.
Also Tuesday, the Russian parliament annulled its deal with Ukraine to rent its Black Sea Fleet’s base in Crimea until 2042 for $98 million a year as well as discounts for Russian natural gas.
In Kiev, Ukrainian police moved to disarm members of a radical nationalist group after a shooting spree. Such groups played a key role in Yanukovych’s ouster, but quickly fell out with the new government in Kiev. Many activists are still encamped on Kiev’s Independence Square, known as the Maidan, and have signaled their intent to remain until the May 25 presidential election.
Last week, a leader of the most prominent radical group, the Right Sector, was shot dead while resisting police. Right Sector members then besieged parliament for hours, demanding the resignation of Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. They lifted the blockade after lawmakers set up a panel to investigate the killing.
Late Monday, a Right Sector member shot and wounded three people outside a restaurant adjacent to Independence Square, triggering a standoff that lasted overnight.
Police responded by surrounding the Dnipro Hotel, which Right Sector had commandeered as its headquarters, demanding that the radicals lay down their weapons and leave. Avakov said Right Sector members agreed yesterday to do so.