Nov 22 (Reuters) - Ukraine has spurned a new alliance with its western neighbours, suspending a trade pact with the European Union and reviving talks on a deal instead with Russia, its old Soviet master.
However, a highly indebted country of 46 million people stricken by corruption and unpredictable politics could have proven a costly and difficult burden for the EU.
Here are some facts about Ukraine's economy and its trade and energy relationship with Russia and Europe:
* Ukraine, with its rich mineral resources, large land mass bordering four EU member states and annual output of more than $300 billion, is an attractive trading partner to both Moscow and Brussels. However, Ukraine's government has heavy financing needs in the coming 18 months and must find more than $17 billion next year to meet gas bills and debt repayments.
* Including the private sector, Ukraine faces debt repayments of more than $60 billion, or a third of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), in the coming year, central bank data showed.
* Ukraine's sovereign debt yield premium to U.S Treasuries stands at 923 basis points, the highest in the world after Venezuela. This prices the risk of default.
Investors' fears are reflected by the fact that debt maturing next year carries higher yields than longer-dated debt. http://link.reuters.com/vuh43v
* Ukraine imports nearly all its gas from Russia and is also the major transit route for Russian gas to the European Union. The EU depends on Russia for roughly a quarter of its gas, about half of which passes through Ukraine.
* Russia has sought to reduce its dependence on Ukraine as a transit nation, while the EU is seeking alternative sources of gas supply. Russian gas giant Gazprom has built the Nord Stream pipeline into Germany, bypassing Ukraine, and is now working on South Stream, which would export Russian gas into southern and eastern Europe, again avoiding Ukraine.
* Compared with January 2009, when gas was cut off to some EU customers, the EU is much better protected against disruptions. EU law now requires states to keep gas in storage.
* Ukraine's economy relies on exports of steel, chemicals and grain. More than 60 percent of its exports go to the former Soviet market, with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan the most important.
* However, Ukrainian big business sees greater prosperity in Europe and until this week Kiev had resisted joining Russia's new customs union, which already comprises several other former Soviet republics.
Joining the Moscow-led customs union would be incompatible with a free-trade deal with the EU because no country can be a member of two separate trade blocs.
* The 28-nation EU, which buys about a third of Ukraine's exports, negotiated a free-trade deal with Kiev between 2008 and 2012. But this never came into force because the EU set Ukraine three "benchmarks" to meet before signing the accord.
These included putting an end to "selective justice", symbolised by the imprisonment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott and Barbara Lewis in Brussels and Sujata Rao in London, editing by Gareth Jones)