Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet with his Ukrainian counterpart on Friday, just as the former Soviet Republican is embroiled in a political crisis over its ties to Russia.
Putin will meet President Viktor Yanukovych during the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Sochi, according to reports from the Russian news agency Interfax. “[Putin] will indeed be there and they will indeed meet,” said Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. Yanukovych’s office has yet to confirm a planned meeting with the Russian leader, Deutsche Welle reports. The two will most likely discuss bilateral ties in light of Ukraine’s ongoing crisis.
Ukraine has been mired in public protests since November last year when Yanukovych chose not to sign a European Union trade agreement in order to maintain ties with Russia. The issue snowballed into a domestic crisis with international implications, threatening the stability of the Ukrainian government and impacting relations between the E.U. and Russia.
Putin told his cabinet to freeze a $15 billion loan to Ukraine following the resignation of Ukraine’s government last month, leaving the country to face possible bankruptcy. Russia has been vocal in suggesting that Yanukovych should use force to crush the protests. It also accused the E.U. and Washington of interfering in Ukraine’s affairs.