EU plays down Ukraine aid reports
The European Union has played down reports that it was working on a large aid package to help Ukraine through its economic crisis, saying it had no intention of getting into a bidding war with Moscow to buy Ukraine's loyalty.
European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU was discussing with partners if it could do something to help Ukraine through its current difficulties but that it was wrong to think the EU must pay to entice countries such as Ukraine into a closer relationship.
"We are not going to a bidding competition to say who pays more" for Ukraine's signature on an agreement, Barroso told reporters.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton was quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying that the EU and the United States were working on a plan for significant short-term financial assistance for Ukraine.
But several EU officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was no new plan for Ukraine apart from the promise of financial help that Brussels had held out if it signed a trade and cooperation agreement with the EU.
President Viktor Yanukovich's last-minute decision to turn his back on the EU agreement last November in favour of closer trade ties with Russia has triggered months of increasingly violent demonstrations in Ukraine.
The EU has made clear that its offer to Ukraine to sign the trade agreement and the financial benefits that go along with it remain on the table.
"We are not talking about extra money. She (Ashton) mentioned several options ... but it was always very clear that it is part of one package that covers the short-term and long-term needs (of Ukraine)," one EU source said.
EU aid remains conditional on Ukraine carrying out reforms and reaching agreement with the International Monetary Fund, the source said.