Poland, Sweden Rap Russia Over Position on Ukraine-EU Deal

MOSCOW, December 1 (RIA Novosti) – The foreign ministers of Poland and Sweden condemned Russia on Sunday for putting pressure on Ukraine not to sign a series of agreements that would bring it closer to the EU.

Ukraine stunned EU leaders last month by announcing it was suspending the signing of free trade and association agreements with the EU after months of Russia warning its neighbor not to sign them. The announcement sparked massive public protests in cities around Ukraine that continued through the weekend.

“We are impressed that so many Ukrainians are braving the cold to protest their president’s abrupt decision to withdraw from signing the Association Agreement with the European Union,” Poland’s Radoslaw Sikorski and Sweden’s Carl Bildt, who together initiated the EU’s Eastern Partnership under which the deals were to have been signed last week, said in a joint statement.

The foreign ministers repeated European Commission President Jose Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy’s earlier condemnation of Russia, saying they “strongly disapprove of the Russian position and actions.”

Sikorski and Bildt said the EU remained prepared to sign the agreement “as soon as President [Viktor] Yanukovych is ready to do so,” but warned that they would not “be drawn into a meaningless bidding war over Ukraine’s future,” an apparent reference to proposals from Russia for trilateral negotiations over the issue.

Ukraine’s foreign minister Leonid Kozhara told Ukrainian TV channel 1+1 on Sunday that a delegation would head to Brussels this week for talks on the issue of the EU agreements. He did not elaborate on the format or participants of the talks.

Ukraine was due to sign the agreements at the EU Eastern partnership summit that ended Friday, but announced on November 21 that it was postponing the deal in favor of developing its trade relationship with neighboring Russia. The decision followed warnings from Moscow that signing the agreements was a “suicidal” step and would lead to stricter customs procedures with Russia, which wants Ukraine to join a Moscow-led trade bloc.

A Polish-Ukrainian economic forum due to open Monday in the Ukrainian city of Lviv with the attendance of the two countries’ economy ministers was postponed indefinitely Sunday, the head of the Polish-Ukrainian Economic Chamber told RIA Novosti.

Andzhei Drozd said the decision had been taken by the forum’s organizers, who included both Ukraine and Lviv’s chambers of trade and commerce and his own organization.

Drozd did not comment on the reasons for the postponement. The Ukrinform news website cited the chairman of the Polish-Ukrainian Chamber of Commerce, Jacek Piechota, as saying the forum had been postponed at the behest of the Polish economy ministry “until the political situation in Ukraine is stabilized.”

Updated with information about the forum’s postponement.

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