EU delays Brussels talks in Yulia Tymoshenko protest

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The European Union delayed a visit by the Ukrainian President yesterday after signals that the country's jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko will not be released soon.

The decision could strengthen Russia's hand in trying to lure Ukraine back into its sphere of influence. President Viktor Yanukovych met his Russian counterpart yesterday to discuss economic co-operation and natural gas imports.

Ms Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison last week on charges of abuse of office in the signing of a natural gas import contract with Russia in 2009. The US and the EU have condemned the conviction as politically motivated.

Mr Yanukovych had been due to travel to Brussels tomorrow for talks on a free-trade agreement, but the EU announced that the trip has been postponed until "a later occasion when the conditions will be more conducive to making progress on bilateral relations".