Originally Published at 13:51, Updated throughout the day
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KIEV, November 21 (RIA Novosti) — Ukraine’s government decided Thursday to call off the planned signing of landmark agreements with the EU that could have weakened the former Soviet nation’s bonds with Russia.
The Cabinet said in a decree that the decision was motivated by the need to consolidate economic ties with Russia and members of the Kremlin-led Customs Union trade bloc.
The stunning reversal will be greeted with dismay in the European Union, which had been hoping to steer Kiev toward closer economic integration with Europe.
Earlier in the day, Ukraine’s parliament rejected draft laws aimed at allowing jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to seek medical treatment abroad, which EU officials had stipulated as a condition for the agreements to go ahead.
Tymoshenko, who is an avowed political rival to President Viktor Yanukovych, is currently serving a seven-year jail sentence on corruption charges that she insists are politically motivated.
Association agreements and free trade deals with the EU were expected to be signed next week at a summit in Vilnius.
Instead, Ukraine’s government proposed Thursday the creation of a trilateral commission between itself, Russia and the European Union to explore ways to deepen mutual ties.
The decree also ordered the resumption of an “active dialogue” with the Moscow-led Customs Union, which includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov welcomed Ukraine’s decision to build up cooperation with Russia.
“We clearly welcome the desire of our close partner Ukraine to optimize and develop trade and economic cooperation,” Peskov said.
Kiev’s volte-face is likely to be hailed as a foreign policy victory for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has not hidden his distaste for Ukraine-EU integration.
Ukraine has come under sustained pressure from the Kremlin in recent months as diplomatic negotiations over its alignment with the EU intensified.
As well as the threatening the imposition of a strict new customs regime, Russia also ratcheted up pressure on Kiev, which depends on Russia for its energy supplies, over payments for gas imports.
Putin said Thursday that Russia would be willing to take part in a trilateral commission with the EU and Ukraine, as long as Ukraine halted its current European integration plans, Russian media reported.
There have been signs of growing nervousness among Ukraine’s leadership in recent days about the impact that the EU agreement could have on all-important economic relations with Russia.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov acknowledged on Wednesday that his country had already registered significant losses because of shrinking trade volumes with Russia and other members of an alliance of former Soviet countries, the Commonwealth of Independent States.
“Trade turnover grew significantly in 2012, but in 2013 we have lost nearly one-quarter of our trade turnover with CIS markets,” Azarov said. “Those economic losses are significant for us, and Ukraine has been facing serious [financial] hardships lately.”
Azarov said that his government’s top priority for next year was to have Russian trade barriers removed and to bring the rapidly worsening state of trade with Russia back to normal.
“It’s no coincidence that when drafting the budget, the main economic figures for 2014 will depend on whether we are able to create mutual understanding with Russia,” he said.
Azarov made the remarks after meeting with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on the sidelines of a CIS prime ministers’ council in St. Petersburg.
President Yanukovych, who was in Austria on a state visit Thursday, said that his country remained open to integration with Europe, hinting that the issue could be revisited at a later stage.
“We have a little way left to the peak. We are not afraid of difficulties, we are certain that we should in future go along the path of European integration,” he said.
Asked about the likelihood of Tymoshenko's release, Yanukovych said that any decision on the former prime minister could only be taken in parliament.
“This matter has spilled out into society and into the international community,” he said. “The release of Tymoshenko should be resolved primarily within the framework of the law.”
Ukrainian deputy Prime Minister Yuriy Boiko said Thursday that the decision to reverse course on EU policy was in the national interest.
“The government based itself on exclusively national interests, the interests of protecting employment, increasing the economic stability of the government and boosting productive potential,” Boiko said.
Boiko added that Ukraine had given up hopes of receiving International Monetary Fund credits as Kiev was unwilling to comply with demands to hike prices for household utilities by 40 percent.
“The position of our president is that we cannot impose the conditions of this onerous contract, which was signed by the previous government, on the shoulders of our people. So there will be no increase in tariffs,” Boiko said.
Updates with comments from Kremlin spokesman, deputy Ukraine prime minister.
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- Jose GarrigaUkraine needs a more sound approach15:36, 21/11/2013I would warrant her treatment in the Russian Federation while I hold the cards in the unavoidable choice between Eurasian Union and EU. That way they save face, and sovereignty, while keeping their options. Right now they are damned if they do, damn if they don´t.
- jgThe middle ground17:40, 22/11/2013It would be nice if Ukraine could choose a path between both the EU and Russia, enjoying trade with both without having to be subservient to either.
It used to be that countries would just trade freely with each other, without the need for any exclusive free trade arrangements that forced them to choose sides between opposing geo-political blocs.
- gauag10(no title)16:35, 21/11/2013EU to Ukraine:
Give us our puppy and we give Made in EU cookie..
- mythoslight"The stunning reversal of course...18:37, 21/11/2013...will be greeted with dismay in the European Union, which had been hoping to steer Kiev toward closer economic integration with Europe"
-and away from Russia on behalf of it´s US patron and it´s Polish ideologues like Brzezinski.
Good show Ukraine and congratulations to a very intelligent decision and a bright future eastwards. As you may have observed, the €USSR went to war against countries that where not interested in being anschluß-ed to that Borg collective (Serbia) or black-mailing and arm-twisting others with one thing in common: Former Warsaw pact members or otherwise in the Soviet sphere. €USSR membership goes hand in hand with NATO membership (enslavement).
These new member get´s nothing but having to accept neo-liberal Argentina measures, mass poverty, sexual perversions, Sexual parades and the privileges of being targeted by Russia´s anti-missile defences and sending their sons and daughters as cannon fodder to neo-colonial wars.
Ukraine,always attached to Mother Russia by the hip, can now enjoy cheaper gas, continue expand it´s joint aviation industry with Russia and being integrated in an atmosphere where they are not considered sub-humans (untermenchen), but equals among real friends in a natural environment.
- LocoIvanGood Luck, Ukraine!00:55, 22/11/2013'Ukraine,always attached to Mother Russia by the hip, can now enjoy cheaper gas, continue expand it´s joint aviation industry with Russia and being integrated in an atmosphere where they are not considered sub-humans (untermenchen), but equals among real friends in a natural environment.'
Ahh, yes 'moist' hopefully it will not happen; however, if it does, whom will YOU blame when the next Proton-M rocket fails?
I suppose it will be the Americans and their HAARP, LOL.
'The part that failed was of...
..Ukrainian origin "The crash was caused by a malfunction of the first stage of the Zenith rocket, which was designed and built in Ukraine(RT)".
That pretty much sums it up. Until Ukraine joins the club and goes back to where it belong, i think it´s best Russia control all stages of the production...'
- lochalsh(no title)14:03, 22/02/2014well then, it seems that the 35m Ukrainians are not so fond of "mother Russia" after all.You seem to be unaware that there is no USSR anymore, it collapsed under the weight of its own contradictions.Ukrainians as "real friends" of Russia? These same Russians who starved millions of Russians to death during the Stalin era? You should go away and study your history before making ignorant, ill-informed comments.
- tec123The EU will use Ukraine to the max if they had gone ahead with the deal..19:37, 21/11/2013This will back fire on Ukraine as the EU will use Yulia as a political rocket against the current president which will surely comes back to haunt him. Moreover Ukraine can be considered a traitor to Russia if they go along with this deal and all this in the long term is geared at squeezing Russia's oil supplies, same situation with Syria if Russia gives in then a pipe line will be constructed from the gulf thru Syria into Turkey then on to Georgia cutting Russia off and Putin is no fool he knows this very well.
Ukraine has to understand this is not about Ukraine wishes to be part of the EU but the EU is using Ukraine as a launch pad against Russia in which they Ukraine will have to surrender part of their sovereignty to the EU moreover Ukraine has nothing substantially to offer the EU.
It is simple Russian cannot be attacked so the next way is through economical and finical hard ship in trying to break up Russia.
Another point Putin cannot put pass or treat lightly that they are not planning to break up Russia same as many other countries in the pass the EU and West comes with broad smiles but stab you in the back Assad learn this the hard way.
The aim is simple here try and get at Russia where it hurts the most and that is oil, then start the opposition off to create mayhem, start another uprising in the Caucuses, get some high military officials to defect along with some regions and bingo the shit comes to Russia.
A simple lesson for Russia to learn one the West as no interest in seeing Russia strong, and when your “neighbours house is on fire wet yours”
- Mikhail1228The EU is a sinking ship!21:05, 21/11/2013Ukraine would be signing an agreement with a European Union that has a bleak future to look forward to. Economic, societal and political tensions in the EU continue to rise. The economy continues to stagnate, the rise of the right-wing and neo-Nazi parties is well documented and political mishaps in countries such as Italy illustrate the inefficiency of the EU machine. It is simply approaching it use-by date.
- lochalsh(no title)13:50, 22/02/2014on the contrary it is Russia which is the sinking ship, with its massive corruption,dirty cities and polluted rivers.The country that gave Ukraine and the world Chernoby
l. How ambitious Yanukovych is for his country, to want it to be like Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan
- orestvera(no title)21:07, 21/11/2013People should not be that surprised at Yanuk's move. He knows that he and his oligarchs can get away with their corruption and don't have to answer for their actions with Putin and not with the EU. This last minute decision was done so that the Ukrainian people would have less time to react and complain. Something as important as this should have been put to a referendum
but Yanuk didn't dare chance it.
- Mikhail1228Ukraine market21:11, 21/11/2013Opening up the Ukrainian market to Europe would have a devastating effect on Ukrainian businessmen and producers. Unfortunately, Ukrainian products cannot compete with Western commodities. Ukrainian consumers will start purchasing EU products, leaving many Ukrainian businesses with financial insecurity and, eventually, complete shutdown.
- agnesmariaA Cause to Breathe Again21:19, 21/11/2013Between supposed Brothers, to destroy communication would be painful, unnatural, and it would forever mar relations. As a citizen of the EU, I am very glad not to see Ukraine join this mess. Do not be fooled - all that we got was a total annihilation of our identity, and a false revival of our society that now is crumbling before our eyes. And, of course, we let the Zionazis rule us. As I said before, I would rather die in the Soviet Reunion than live in the European Union. Tymoshenko's imprisonment did not need to be part of this ordeal, but there was no way to know that then. Things are as they ought to be, and this is still the best possible course of action.
- rationalamerican(no title)07:05, 22/11/2013Just so you know, when someone uses the word "zionazis" their argument is not only completely invalidated but makes them look like a total moron. Don't you even realize the incredible contradiction that term represents?
And I bet there would have been quite a few poor souls who if given the option, would have gladly chosen to live in the EU but sadly they are now a part of Stalin's Road of Bones, not to mention the thousands of other Russians killed by their own government during the Soviet Union's bloody reign. Don't you dare disrespect their deaths with such a mindless comment.
- cheruskHelas, railroad corridor 5. Lisbon - Kiev is being built21:36, 21/11/2013EU/NATO/Italy have already started to drill a second 57 km long tunnel in the Fréjus mountain (France - Italy) for the high speed / high capacity railroad allegedly linking Lisbon with Kiev (!!) A harsh struggle is being fought by the local valley-dwellers who oppose the wicked wasteful work. Ah ah, corridor 5. Lisbon -Kiev
- ChristianRussia and Ukraine are Inseparable22:32, 21/11/2013It is ridiculous to try and separate the people in the two countries mainly because they are deeply united on the popular level to the degree that one would think they are one country. The similarities in the two countries are simply astonishing. Ukraine is as wonderful and conservative as Russia and they would probably enjoy way much higher benefits by capitalising on their healthy relations as a key partner with Moscow than by joining the EU as a small entrants. There latest world cup football battles against the world's greatest champs only reveal how capable and strong the Ukrainian individual is. With this kind of ability and spirit, they are on the right track and their future is definitely bright. Football like everything else is a march, and the Ukrainians are on the right track for major triumphs in football too. I think this decision is a turning point in their history. Congrats Ukraine.
- Wolfgang9Congratulations Ukraine11:31, 22/11/2013as other citizens of EU countries stated here I have to congratulate! Me and most of my friends in Germany hope that this ridiculous government in Brussels ends soon! We are sick and tired of noticing their stupid decisions and suffering from it!
- sohelsaheenUkraine and Russia vs EU17:01, 22/11/2013Really Ukraine has bright future. Nothing to get from the EU as it is clear EU is just an ILLUSION.The EU has nothing to offer as they have NOTHING. So it was the most perfect decision made by the Ukraine.
- Mikhail1228If EU is so great why does NATO member Turkey want into SCO?17:25, 05/12/2013If EU is so great why does NATO member Turkey want into SCO?
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Ukraine has not preserved its 1991 borders. The signing of the Geneva memorandum on April 17 reaffirmed the willingness of Russia, the United States and EU countries to reach a compromise. While the sides continue to trade tough talk and symbolic sanctions, the Kremlin and the White House are also holding a parallel dialogue on the coordinated geopolitical revision of Eastern Europe.