NOVO-OGARYOVO, Russia, March 4 (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday Russia intends to work with Western states using the International Monetary Fund as a potential source of economic aid to Ukraine.
Putin said the West had asked Russia to hold off on releasing further instalments of a $15-billion bailout package which he promised Kiev in December after its government spurned deals with the European Union in favour of closer Russian ties.
Russia began the bailout by buying $3 billion worth of Ukrainian Eurobonds later that month, but stalled on releasing a second tranche as opposition protesters got the upper hand and pushed President Viktor Yanukovich from power.
"In principle, we would be ready to consider further steps to release more tranches ... but our Western partners are asking us not to do this," Putin told a news conference in his first public comments on Ukraine in over a week.
"They are asking us to work together in the framework of the IMF in order to persuade the government of Ukraine, the Ukrainian authorities, to conduct reforms needed to revive the economy," he said. "We intend to keep working in this channel."
Ukraine has asked the IMF for at least $15 billion to avert bankruptcy.