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Russia's free trade offer to Ukraine unnerves EU news
26 November 2013

The European Union is agitated over Russia's offer to sign a free trade and political association agreement with Ukraine and Kiev's decision to seek closer ties with Russia.

The two member countries of the erstwhile Soviet Union, issued a joint statement days before Ukraine was due to sign a free trade pact with the EU free-trade agreement at a summit in Vilnius.

European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council president Herman Van Rompuy said Russia had pressured Ukraine into accepting its offer by threatening to cut off gas supplies.

"The European Union will not force Ukraine, or any other partner, to choose between the European Union or any other regional entity," they said, adding that Russia had put unacceptable pressure on Kiev. "We, therefore, strongly disapprove of the Russian position and actions in this respect."

They said the EU offer remained and will be on the table at the 28-29 November EU summit if Ukraine wanted to take advantage of the EU offer.

"The EU stands ready to be more open and more supportive to those who are willing to engage in reforms and modernisation."

Russia, on the other hand, has accused the EU of putting undue pressure on Ukraine to sign the deal.

Meanwhile, EU supporters clashed with police outside the cabinet building in downtown Kiev against the move to suspend an association deal with the European Union, RIA Novosti reported.

Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told Channel One Russia that his government was not afraid of the protests, and that it would check whether the actions were illegally funded.

Additional police forces have been rushed to the scene to prevent violence.

Azarov said the 1 billion ($1.4 billion) in aid that the EU had offered to Ukraine to upgrade its industries for the would-be free-trade zone would be nothing more than ''helping a beggar.''

He also dismissed rumors that Russia has promised Kiev to pay $20 billion in compensation for not signing the EU deal, Ukrainian television channel ICTV reported.

The Ukrainian government announced November 21 that the proposed trade and association deals with the EU would harm its trade links with its neighbours and that it would rather seek closer cooperation with Russia and the Moscow-led Customs Union that includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.





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Russia's free trade offer to Ukraine unnerves EU