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December 24, 2013 AT 4:40 AM
Russia told Ukraine on Tuesday it had transferred the first $3 billion tranche of a $15 billion bailout, part of plans to keep Kiev firmly within Moscow's orbit and out of the European Union's embrace. President Vladimir Putin offered Ukraine the lifeline last week, along with a big cut in the price Kiev pays for vital Russian gas supplies, as he tries to persuade Russia's Slavic neighbor to join a customs union of ex-Soviet republics. "Yesterday ... the first tranche of Ukrainian sovereign debt was acquired for $3 billion," Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told his Ukrainian counterpart Mykola Azarov at a meeting in Moscow, according to Interfax news agency.