On Wednesday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov said that the blatant attempts to pressure the Ukraine into signing an association agreement with the EU surprised Russia. He said that the pressure was continuing despite Kiev’s clear choice to develop closer ties with Moscow. He spoke a day after President Vladimir Putin agreed to cut the price of Russian natural gas exported to the Ukraine by a third from 400 USD (13,180 Roubles. 426 CAD. 450 AUD. 291 Euros. 245 UK Pounds) per 1,000 cubic metres to 268.50 USD (8,850 Roubles. 286 CAD. 302 AUD. 196 Euros. 164 UK Pounds). Russia would also buy 15 billion USD (495 billion Roubles. 16 billion CAD. 16.9 billion AUD. 11 billion Euros. 9.2 billion UK Pounds) of Ukrainian debt in Eurobonds in a deal struck in Moscow with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said that the “historic” agreement saved his country from imminent economic default and social collapse.
Lavrov told Russian lawmakers “We’re surprised by the attempts to put blatant pressure on the Ukrainian government, which continue despite the decisions taken in Moscow”. Ukrainian opposition leaders and EU official criticised the deal as a half-measure that failed to address the urgent need for economic reforms in the country, which they argue only EU integration could achieve. Lavrov said, “They demand that Kiev make a ‘free’ choice in favour of the EU”. However, he added, these demands clearly contradicted the right of a sovereign state to resolve the situation by itself and to act in accordance with its national laws and interests. Lavrov noted, “Our position is based on respect for the sovereign choice made by the Ukrainian people”.
The Ukraine became the focus of a diplomatic tug-of-war between Russia and the EU. Last month, the former Soviet republic stunned EU leaders by announcing that it was giving up pursuit of an association agreement that would strengthen trade and political links with the EU, and would instead seek closer ties with the Customs Union of the Eurasian Economic Community (TS EvrAsES). Lavrov said after a meeting with his EU counterparts on Monday that the sides agreed that they should respect the Ukraine’s sovereignty, and that people should have a free choice over the future development of their country.
On Wednesday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said that the economic deal that the Ukraine signed with Moscow on Tuesday helped the country to stave off an imminent threat of economic and social collapse. Azarov said at a government meeting in defence of Kiev’s decision to establish closer ties with Moscow rather than Brussels, “What awaited the Ukraine? The answer’s clear… bankruptcy and social collapse”. The Ukrainian rejection of the EU deal prompted mass protests and threw the country into a political crisis, with hundreds of thousands attending rallies demanding the dissolution of the government and early elections. Both the EU and Moscow accused each other of using strong-arm tactics to secure economic ties with Kiev.
18 December 2013