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Eastern Partnership: Kiev under Russian pressure

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With just two weeks left to run before the Vilnius Eastern Partnership summit, which was set to provide the venue for the signature of an Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU, events have taken a new turn in Kiev. Meeting in an extraordinary session on November 13, the Rada (or Ukrainian Parliament) has postponed a vote on the release of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, which is one of the primary conditions for the agreement imposed by the EU, until November 19.

Three days earlier, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych sparked controversy by making a surprise visit to Moscow. “Viktor Yanukovych’s official website announced on the same day that the President would travel to the Russian Federation, without providing further details,” reports the centrist Kiev daily Den. “At the same time, the website of Russian President Vladimir Putin did not provide any information at all, which can only pave the way for all sorts of speculation and insinuations.” For its part, the resolutely pro-western Kyiv Post alludes to pressure from Moscow and even writes of a “trade war against Ukraine,” which the “Ukrainian economy will be unable to withstand,” in the light of the fact that “key sectors of [the country’s] economy are reliant on Russia.”

According to Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, who is quoted by Oukraïnska Pravda, the U-turn by authorities in Kiev has been prompted by the desire to “normalise relations with Russia” with a view to satisfying Ukrainian “industrialists and entrepreneurs, who are very worried about the trading situation with Moscow.” Putin allegedly demanded that Azarov step down at the impromptu meeting, because the Russians believe that he is too much in favour of a rapprochement with the west.

In Brussels, EUobserver reports that “European diplomats have set aside hopes that Ukraine will sign the agreement.” The news website also notes that Tymoshenko’s lawyer Serhiy Vlasenko has now been charged with domestic violence —

The move came 48 hours before a European Parliament mission on Wednesday in Brussels gives a final verdict on whether Ukraine has stopped “selective justice. “It also came one week before EU foreign ministers next Monday decide whether to sign the pact at an EU summit with former Soviet states in the Lithuanian capital on November 27.

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