EU halts Ukraine talks over ‘unrealistic’ demands

Arguments and demands of president and his government “have no grounds in reality”

The European Union has halted talks about a pact aimed at forging closer ties with Ukraine, even as 200,000 protesters poured into Kiev to urge their government not to shut the door on EU integration.

Since pulling out of a trade and political agreement with the EU just days before the signing ceremony last month, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych has assured officials in Brussels that he does intend eventually to commit to the deal. But he has refused to indicate when that might happen, and has at the same time been holding talks with Russia, which wants its former Soviet satellite to sign up to a Moscow-led free trade area.

EU officials had put on a brave face at Mr Yanukovych’s abrupt U-turn, insisting that they remained open to a re-negotiated timetable for the agreement. But their frustration with the lack of progress, and Ukrainian demands for more financial aid, were made clear yesterday when the EU Enlargement Commissioner, Stefan Füle, announced the suspension of talks.

The arguments and demands of President Yanukovych and his government “have no grounds in reality”, Mr Füle wrote on Twitter. Until the administration came back with a “clear commitment” to sign the association agreement, work was “on hold”.

Mr Yanukovych remains busy, however, and will travel to the Kremlin tomorrow, where he is expected to meet President Vladimir Putin.