Smarting from Ukraine’s U-turn towards Europe, Russia is likely to employ every weapon in its economic arsenal to ensure its neighbour’s road to financial recovery is as painful as possible, even when paved with billions of dollars in Western aid. Russia has “the right to use selective protective measures against Ukraine if it creates a free trade zone with a third government, or for example with the European Union,” a Russian economy ministry spokesman said in response to a question from Reuters, citing the terms of a 2011 agreement. He gave no details of what the measures might entail. After months of anti-government protests and the overthrow of a government blighted by corruption and economic mismanagement, Ukraine is on the brink of bankruptcy, running wide external deficits and a current account shortfall of over 9 percent of gross domestic product. On Thursday, the International Monetary Fund threw a financial lifeline, agreeing to stump up $14-18 billion as part of a two-year bailout package in exchange for tough economic reforms. The deal, combined with Kiev’s signing of a cooperation pact linked to closer trade ties with the European Union, represents a serious blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dream of Ukraine…
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