2013-09-19 19:17:37

Ukraine approves EU Association Agreement amid controversy

(Vatican Radio) Ukraine has approved the draft Association Agreement with the European Union which is seen as a first step towards EU membership. It comes amid growing pressure on the former Soviet nation to release from prison Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Listen to regional correspondent Stefan Bos's report... RealAudioMP3

The Agreement, which would open up European markets for Ukrainian exports, marks another turn towards the West, adding to concerns in neighboring Russia which considers Ukraine firmly in its sphere of influence.

Amid these tensions, Ukraine says it wants to find out ways to continue cooperating with Russia and the Moscow-led Customs Union championed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However Kiev has made clear that EU membership remains its ambition.

The decision to sign the agreement at an EU summit in Lithuania in November came after talks this week with European Union officials in the capital Kiev.

However the leader of the EU delegation to Ukraine, Jan Tombinski, has warned that Brussels will only sign the agreement if Ukraine shows respect for the rule of law, free elections, and reviews the imprisonment of jailed Ukrainian opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

"The election system should be more just and resilient to fraud," he told reporters.

"And there is the unanswered question of selective justice, the case of Julia Tymoshenko,” the EU official added.


Tymoshenko says her seven-year sentence on abuse of power charges was ordered by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to eliminate a dangerous opponent from political life ahead of the 2015 presidential polls.

Last month Yanukovych confirmed an idea to send Tymoshenko to Germany for treatment for back problems -- seen as a possible way out of the stalemate -- was still "on the agenda".

But he claims he does not have the legal authority to allow it.

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