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Ukranian president heads to China as protests rage on

UKRANIAN president Viktor Yanukovich will head to China today looking for loans and investment despite protests unleashed by his decision not to sign a trade pact with the EU.

Protesters blockaded the main government building in Kiev yesterday seeking to force Mr Yanukovich from office.

Hundreds of thousands protested on Sunday against his decision to turn away from the EU towards Russia. Ukraine's currency and bonds came under pressure, along with share prices.

The tug-of-war between Brussels and Moscow for influence in Ukraine has done little to alleviate its looming debt crisis, and Yanukovich said yesterday the visit would go ahead.

"Yanukovich is trying to show that the European Union and Russia are not the only possible partners for Ukraine," said Volodymyr Fesenko of Ukraine's Penta think-tank.

He said Beijing may demand assurances over Ukraine's stability, adding: "Ukraine is unlikely to secure direct financial aid [from China]."

Beijing has already provided the former Soviet republic with loans worth $10 billion, but the government must find more than $17 billion in 2014 to meet gas bills and debt repayments.

Including the private sector, Ukraine must make debt repayments of more than $60 billion next year, equivalent to a third of its gross domestic product. Opposition leaders called on Sunday for Yanukovich and his government to resign.

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