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MOSCOW - Russia decided to provide Ukraine with loans and cut price for gas supplies because Moscow sees Kiev as a brotherly nation in difficult situation, President Vladimir Putin said at his annual press conference on Thursday.
"We should behave as close relatives and support Ukrainian people," Putin said.
No one attempted to "suffocate" Ukrainians but if they wanted to be independent, they had to pay for that, he said.
The Russian president noted that his country was not going to support Ukrainian economy at its own expense.
If Ukraine signed up for the European Union's (EU) technical standards, it would lose Russian market completely. For Ukraine, it would take much time and hundreds of billions of dollars to switch for EU standards, he said.
Putin reiterated that Moscow did not oppose Kiev's association with the EU but Russia had to protect its market in case Ukraine opened its borders for European goods.
"In these circumstances we've made a decision in the interests of Ukrainian people as well as for pragmatic reasons. We expect we'll find long-term decisions to cooperate at a deeper level," Putin said.
Moscow didn't pull Kiev to itself, but it recommended Ukrainian goods would receive the most favorable status on Russian market to save its machine-building, space and aviation industry.
"We can develop cooperation further in rocket building and nuclear energy. Ukrainian nuclear power plants are designed to use Russian nuke fuel, not the US one, " Putin added.
As for gas cooperation, he called the terms of a gas contract signed between Moscow and Kiev in 2009 reasonable.
"I believed and believe that this contract is completely economically grounded. No one was stifling anyone," Putin said.
It was Putin's ninth big conference as president and the second since his return to the Kremlin last May. More than 1,300 reporters gathered for the event. Last year, the marathon press conference lasted for 4.5 hours