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16th Dec 2017

Ukraine to sign EU trade treaty in June

Ukraine’s new leader has told Lithuania that he plans to sign the EU free trade treaty in Kiev in early June.

“He [Ukrainian president-elect Petro Porosehnko] is keen to continue what he promised in his election campaign and to sign as soon as possible, preferably after his inauguration in early June, and he would like to sign it in Kiev,” Lithuania’s foreign minister, Linas Linkevicius, told EUobserver on Thursday (29 May) after meeting Poroshenko in Ukraine.

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  • Astana: If Ukraine signs the DCFTA, it will be legally bound to stay out of Putin's club (Photo: kremlin.ru)

“When it comes to his readiness to sign, the rumours of hesitation are wrong ... I have full confidence,” he added.

Porosehnko won last Sunday’s election with 55 percent and is to be sworn in on 7 June.

Following his victory, he spoke of “implementing” the EU “association agreement” and “realising Ukrainians’ European aspirations.”

But he did not promise to sign the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) at a specific time and place, prompting concern he might fudge things to make a deal with Russia.

Linkevicius - the first senior EU politician to visit Kiev since the election - spoke to EUobserver the same day Russian President Vladimir Putin and the leaders of Belarus and Kazakhstan signed a treaty to create a "Eurasian Economic Union" in 2015.

Ukraine was supposed to be a cornerstone of the new bloc.

If it signs the DCFTA, it can still have free trade with Russia, but it will be legally bound to stay out of the Eurasian Union.

Putin said in Astana on Thursday: "They try to stick this label on us - a label that we are trying to restore an empire, the Soviet Union, make everyone subordinate. This absolutely does not correspond to reality".

He has also promised to de-escalate the Ukraine conflict.

But for the Lithuanian minister, his actions speak louder than words.

Linkevicius told this website that Russia is sending weapons and fighters into Ukraine “as we speak”.

He said the Ukrainian helicopter shot down by pro-Russia rebels near Sloviansk, eastern Ukraine, on Thursday, killing 14, was shot with a model of rocket-propelled grenade “which is not possessed by the Ukrainian army, it is produced by the Russian military".

He also said he has “signals" the Vostok Battalion - a group of fighters from Chechnya, Russia - has crossed into east Ukraine.

“This is not an internal conflict. If it was left to the Ukrainians themselves to calm the situation, the crisis would be over by now”.

Linkevicius noted the rebels are “increasingly intimidating" peace monitors from the OSCE, a Vienna-based multilateral club, “in an operation designed to end the monitoring mission, to get them out of the territory”.

He added: “We [the EU] should seriously think about how to maintain an international presence here”.

EU pressure

EU leaders on Tuesday warned Russia if it continues its war against Ukraine they will impose extra “targeted measures”.

The EU has so far blacklisted 61 Russians and pro-Russia Ukrainians, as well as two Russia-annexed Crimean companies.

“We should continue keeping pressure on Russia by preparing ‘stage three’ sanctions,” the Lithuanian minister said, referring to potential economic sanctions.

“We should also continue using ‘stage two’ targeted measures against individuals. We shouldn’t stop that,” he added.

“Those who think the [Russia-Ukraine] situation is becoming more stable are wrong. The EU cannot stand by, watch, and not react.”

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