President Viktor Yanukovich and President Vladimir Putin
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (L) gives a wink to his Russian President Vladimir Putin during a signing ceremony after a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, December 17, 2013 Reuters

Russia bailed out Ukraine for reasons of friendship and not geopolitics, according to President Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine's largest neighbour proferred a $15bn (£9.1bn, €10.9bn) aid package that will involve the Kremlin buying bonds from the country to prevent it defaulting on its debt and also give it cheaper energy supplies.

"Now we see that Ukraine is in difficult straits ... if we really say that they are a brotherly nation and people then we must act like close relatives and help this nation," Putin said in his annual news conference.

"In no way is this connected with the Maidan (protests in central Kiev) or the European talks with Ukraine," he added.

There have been concerns in some quarters that Putin deliberately undercut an association agreement between the European Union and the Ukrainian government that was meant to be signed at the end of November at a conference in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The feeling among Ukrainians opposed to the current government that this might be the case brought hundreds of thousands of them onto the streets in Kiev, the nation's capital.

They congregated at Independence Square and took down a statue of Soviet icon Vladimir Lenin, but were later dispersed by riot police that finally took a harder line against them.

Barely ten days ago, Ukraine appeared it was heading for a political and economic meltdown as neither the pro-Russian government led by President Viktor Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, nor its pro-EU protestors were willing to back down.

On 11 December, the cost of servicing Ukraine's debt hit a four-year high and it became increasingly apparent that the country would need some type of immediate rescue package to curtail its economic crisis.

When Russia and Ukraine finally struck a deal, it seemed to break the stalemate between both the government and its critics on the streets and halt the economic deterioration in the immediate future.

But members of Ukraine's opposition including former heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who has quit the ring to focus on politics in Ukraine, are sceptical of the deal struck between Ukraine and Russia.

Meanwhile, the government in Kiev has championed the deal and said it will bring valuable economic growth in 2014.