Russia's President Vladimir Putin (R) and Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich shake hands after signing documents during their meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow, on December 17, 2013.

Bonds, gas – but what about the Customs Union?

As the FT reports, Russia has agreed to send cash and cheaper gas to Ukraine. Moscow said it would convert $15bn of reserves in its national welfare fund into Ukrainian securities. It also said it would cut prices for natural gas from more than $400 per thousand cubic metres to $268.50. There was no mention of any agreement to join the CIS Customs Union.

The question is: what does Russia get in return? Read more

You can throw bone-chilling below zero degree weather at Kiev’s pro-EU protestors.

You can unleash thousands of riot police and the National Guard to clear barricades separating their protest camp in downtown Kiev from the rest of Ukraine ruled by their despised president.

You can even balk at their demands, as Viktor Yanukovich has done for weeks. But so far, you can’t break their resolve. Read more

Protesters and riot police face each other in front of the Ukrainian parliament, December 3

Worries about the unfolding events in Ukraine sent the cost of insuring against a default on its debt soaring once again on Tuesday. But Viktor Yanukovich, the president, appeared unfazed: he set off on a state visit to China as planned, news agencies reported.

The cost of insuring against default on government debt in the next five years reached more than 1106 basis points (or more than 11 per cent of the amount insured), up more than 34 bp from Monday’s close of 1072 bp, according to Bloomberg. Read more

On Wednesday, thousands of university students from Kiev and other cities returned to the Ukrainian capital’s main square in larger numbers one day after calling a strike.

Their arrival re-energised a seventh day of protests by activists, politicians and average Ukrainians against last week’s stunning government decision to back out of signing historic EU integration agreements at a Vilnius summit being held this Thursday and Friday. Read more

In response to Ukraine suspending talks over a trade and political agreement with the EU, jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko has written a letter to president Viktor Yanukovich. Here it is in full.

Dear Viktor Fedorovych,

Today, I can write you a letter with no particular worries.

Viktor Fedorovych, I advise you to convene the National Security and Defense Council as soon as possible, to listen with fatherly attention to all doubts of your government concerning complications in the relations with Russia, to admit that you understand their sincere worries and immediately, at an extraordinary NSDC meeting to take the decision about signing the Agreement.

This is the only chance for you to survive as a politician, because now, when you are killing the Agreement you are making the biggest mistake of your life. Read more

Pointing that way

The jury is still out on how history books will look back at Viktor Yanukovich, the towering 63-year old who rose up from a troubled Soviet childhood in Ukraine’s tough eastern industrial heartland to eventually become president of this independent country of 46m.

His greatest legacy may turn out not to be domestic, but in helping Russian president Vladimir Putin restrict the EU’s eastern border at Poland, leaving much of the eastern edge of Europe within a competing Eurasian Union. Some fear it would be ‘USSR 2.0′. Read more

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich sounded deadly serious during a passionate speech he gave on his administration’s commitment to fighting corruption on Wednesday.

Himself accused of corrupt practices for the way he managed to occupy a lavish estate in a Kiev suburb, it was delivered at a World Economic Forum event in Kiev, a gathering to discuss the nation’s future as the EU summit nears in later this month in Vilnius. But hang on: wasn’t the EBRD supposed to be in town to sign a new anti-corruption Read more

It’s not often that a multimillionaire moves into a president’s backyard. But something along those lines is happening in Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Serhiy Klyuyev, a multimillionaire pro-presidential lawmaker, revealed that he had agreed to spend some $18m to buy into a controversial 127 hectare luxury estate within which his long time political boss, President Viktor Yanukovich, resides. It’s a situation that would be mind-boggling in any normal country. Read more

There's an oligarch in there somewhere

With economic challenges piling up fast, you would think Ukraine’s government would move fast to clean up things at home. Cracking down on tax evasion in a country where half of the economy is estimated to operate in the shadows would be a good place to start.

But will the ruling administration of president Viktor Yanukovich force the billionaire oligarchs who backed him into paying their fair share of taxes, or will they continue applying various means to squeeze hard-earned cash out of average citizens that are struggling to survive? Read more

Any dollars under there?

With Ukraine’s currency plunging to a three-year low of 8.27 hryvnia to the dollar, and central bank reserves dwindling, the administration of President Viktor Yanukovich has turned to hardball tactics to preserve stability.

A series of new currency market rules adopted early this week aim to force impoverished citizens and oligarch-owned exporters into coughing up their hard currency cash. Read more

It’s too early to call the result of Ukraine’s parliamentary election on Sunday but if exit polls are any guide the country is set for a delicate balancing act between government and opposition in parliament and, on the world stage, between the west and Russia.

The country branded by Angela Merkel as a dictatorship may not, by a slim margin, merit quite such outright condemnation. But the forces competing for its future could tip it either way. Read more