'Eurasian Union': Ukraine chooses to strengthen ties with Russia and reject historic trade deal with EU

The country's refusal to meet demands to free jailed former PM Yulia Tymoshenko has led the government to suspend preparations for the signing ceremony in Lithuania

Brussels and Kiev

The Ukrainian government has stunned the European Union by announcing it was stepping back from a trade deal with the bloc and would instead pursue greater ties with Russia, hours after refusing to meet EU demands to free jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

With eight days to go until a summit in Lithuania which was meant to mark Ukraine’s historic shift away from its former Soviet ruler and towards the West, lawmakers in Kiev rejected draft legislation which would have allowed Ms Tymoshenko to go to Germany for medical treatment.

As Stefan Fule, the EU Enlargement Commissioner, was preparing to get on a plane to Kiev to try to salvage the deal, the Ukrainian government announced it was suspending preparations for the signing ceremony in Vilnius. Instead, the country would “renew active dialogue” with Russia, which has been pressuring Kiev to join its own trading bloc and help to form a “Eurasian Union”.

The Ukrainian energy minister, Yuri Boiko, said the decision was based on the best economic interests of his country, but Sweden’s Foreign Minister, Carl Bildt, blamed Kremlin tactics. “Politics of brutal pressure evidently works,” he tweeted. Mr Fule cancelled his trip, and an EU official said they regretted the decision of the Ukrainian government.

The sudden U-turn was a serious blow to the bloc, which had been hoping to expand its influence eastwards and launch agreements on closer trade and political ties with Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Armenia next week.

Russia – desperate to keep the former Soviet states within its political orbit – responded with retaliatory trade measures. Moscow banned imports of some Moldovan and Georgian wines and Ukrainian chocolates. Fear of disruption of gas supplies also hung over Russia’s neighbours. Armenia was the first to bow to the pressure, announcing in August that it would instead be joining a Russian free trade area know as the Customs Union, which consists of Moscow allies Belarus and Kazakhstan.

While some polls show that the majority of Ukrainians support greater integration with the European Union, it appeared that the bloc’s condition that President Viktor Yanukovych reach a compromise which would allow his bitter political rival to go free was also a demand too far.

The former face of Ukraine’s 2004 “Orange Revolution” was jailed for seven years in 2011 for abuse of office during her stint as prime minister. The EU had made clear that it saw the sentence as “selective justice” and had been working with the Ukrainian government on a face-saving solution which would involve her being transferred to Germany.

Russia was making no such demands, and President Vladimir Putin’s spokesperson put out a statement welcoming Kiev’s “desire to improve and develop trade and economic co-operation”.

Opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk warned that abandoning the deal was “treason” and could be grounds for impeachment. The opposition plans a pro-European demonstration in Kiev on Sunday.

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

ETL Developer / Consultant

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Geography Teacher, Immediate start, Dover School

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is urgently s...

English Teacher

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: We have an urgent requirement fo...

Senior BA - Motor and Home Insurance

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: **URGENT CONTRACT ROLE**...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week