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Published: Friday February 28, 2014 MYT 3:15:01 PM
Updated: Friday February 28, 2014 MYT 3:15:01 PM

Russia's Putin orders government to work with partners on Ukraine

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his government to continue talks with Ukraine on economic and trade relations and to consult foreign partners including the IMF and the G8 on financial aid, a statement on the Kremlin's website said.

It said Putin also ordered the government to consider a request from Ukraine's largely ethnic Russian southern region of Crimea, a bastion of opposition to the new pro-Western leadership in Kiev, for humanitarian aid.

They were the first orders Putin has made in relation to Ukraine since Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich's ouster over the weekend after a bloody three-month standoff with opposition protesters.

The orders were in stark contrast with aggressive Russian statements which have called on Ukraine's new leaders to disarm "extremists" and vowed to Moscow will strongly defend its compatriots in Ukraine.

The call for cooperation with foreign partners, including the Group of Eight largest economies and the International Monetary Fund, signals that Putin does not want to be left out of efforts to help deeply indebted Ukraine, a country he calls a "brother nation".

Yanukovich triggered protests in Ukraine in November by backing out of plans to sign landmark deals with the European Union and instead saying Ukraine would seek closer economic and trade ties with its former Soviet master Russia.

In December, Putin promised Yanukovich a $15 billion bailout, but Russia has put the deal on hold after releasing an initial instalment, saying it wants more clarity about the new government and its policies.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly, writing by Steve Gutterman, editing by Elizabeth Piper)

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