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INTERVIEW-Russia says Ukraine bailout benefits both economies

Wednesday, 18 Dec 2013 | 9:00 AM ET

MOSCOW, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Moscow's $15 billion financial aid to Ukraine should benefit the Russian economy and risks for both countries would have been greater if Kiev had received no help, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov told Reuters on Wednesday.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich and Russia's Vladimir Putin announced the bailout package for Kiev after talks on Tuesday. The deal also includes lowering the price Ukraine pays for Russian gas deliveries by about one-third.

Siluanov said the aid would enable Ukraine to rebuild its finances and should strengthen ties between the neighbours.

"Ukraine's assets certainly do not have such high ratings as other papers in which we now invest our reserves," Siluanov said in an interview.

"However, we understand the need to support our neighbour, as we have very tight trade and economic connections."

He said there would have been more "negative" impact on both economies if Russia had not taken the decision to help Kiev.

"I believe that Russia only won from it," Siluanov said.

Although the $15 billion that will be spent in part on buying Ukraine's debt makes up 19 percent of a Russian oil fund, Siluanov said the rescue deal should not decrease Moscow's credibility among investors.

"There is no basis for that," Siluanov said. "We will be looking for other sources and ways to lower the amount used from the National Welfare Fund."

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Catherine Evans)