Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov on Wednesday asked the European Union (EU) to provide 27.5 billion U.S.dollars in aid to improve the country's infrastructure. "We are not referring to the non-repayable aid. We want the EU to invest in joint projects with Ukraine," Azarov told a government meeting. Azarov said Kiev needed the funds to expand its "European transport corridors", which connect the EU and the Central Asian region, and create a new corridor with the Caucasus region. The latest proposal is far less than the 217 billion dollars initially sought by Kiev, which was rejected by the EU in late November as being "unrealistically high". The aid is sought by Kiev as a stability fund to bring the country's economy closer to European standards before it signs historic partnership agreements with the EU for closer ties. According to local experts, Kiev urgently needs a fresh injection into its economy to cover its state debt and pay for Russian gas. Next year, Ukraine needs around 17 billion dollars to meet its gas bill and debt repayments. Ukraine, which was due to sign a partnership agreement with the EU at the Eastern Partnership Summit in Lithuania on Nov. 28-29, suddenly put the deal on hold, opting for closer trade ties with Russia. The scrapped plan has triggered ongoing protests, which gathered several thousand demonstrators in central Kiev and other big Ukrainian cities.