KIEV, August 29 (RIA Novosti) – Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said Thursday that he was convinced his country would sign a free-trade deal with the European Union as part of a broader association agreement.
“For today, I see no obstacles to signing this document,” he said in comments aired on Ukrainian television. “All requirements put forward by the European Union will be met. I have no doubts about that.”
Ukraine is negotiating to sign a free-trade agreement with the European Union in November, but has also been involved in talks to join the Russia-led Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. The two deals are considered mutually exclusive.
To sign the EU deal, Kiev will have to meet a number of demands outlined by the European leadership, including better electoral legislation, faster reforms and progress in eliminating selective justice.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said last week that the Customs Union might have to use protective measures should Ukraine sign the agreement with the EU. Russia is worried that European goods would enter Ukraine – free of import duties – and be re-exported at low prices to the Customs Union countries, flooding the market and harming domestic producers.
Earlier this month, Russia introduced rigorous checks of Ukrainian goods crossing its border, widely seen as an attempt to push Kiev into joining the Moscow-led union. Although the problem was resolved several days later, Yanukovych described Russia’s move as “hasty” and “ill-thought-out.”
He said Russia and Ukraine, who have had a series of politically driven commercial spats since the fall of the Soviet Union, should find a “pragmatic solution” on how to manage their economic relations.
“I’m far from [thinking] that we should make our relations with Russia and Customs Union states more complicated. On the contrary, we should think of how to make them simpler and search for mutual understanding,” he said. “The Russian president is also concerned about this issue, because he clearly understands that any complicated situation concerning these ties would affect both Ukraine and Russia.”