Ukraine says open to talks with Russia over EU trade deal
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday said Kiev was open to last-minute talks aimed at overcoming fierce Russian opposition to a free trade accord between his country and the European Union.
His comments came a day after the EU, Ukraine and Russia failed to reach a deal at three-way talks in Brussels to overcome Moscow’s opposition to the trade pact that will take effect on January 1.
“We proposed another consultation with the Russian Federation in order to demonstrate our readiness to help remove any barriers that would bring problems for Russia,” Poroshenko told reporters on a visit to the Lithuanian capital Vilnius.
“We are prepared for professional economic discussions,” he added, insisting that neither Brussels nor Kiev would bow to “blackmail” aimed at scuppering their agreement.
EU ambassador to Russia Vygaudas Usackas said Brussels was optimistic about reaching an agreement with Russia.
“The EU maintains its level of engagement in the trilateral talks and hopes that the parties will come to a common understanding by December 31st,” Usackas told AFP.
Experts are expected to meet next week, possibly on December 7-8, he added.
In November 2013, Ukraine’s then pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych rejected the EU-Ukraine association agreement, triggering the pro-EU protests that led to his downfall and armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.
Tensions between Kiev and Moscow came to a fever pitch last year over Russia’s annexation of the Crimean peninsula from Ukraine and subsequent backing of armed separatists in the country’s east.
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