Ukraine, a primary candidate to join EU-led initiative, abandoned its plans to sign the Association Agreement with EU within the framework of Eastern Partnership project. Eastern Partnership initiative which foresaw bringing six countries (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan) into European zone, was designed to open doors for gradual integration of the candidate states with developed market economies. In Moscow, the project is seen as measure to lure the countries in the Russian periphery into NATO’s dominion which is perceived as a national security risk.
The deal would have weakened Russia’s bonds with Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin has applied pressure on Ukraine via sanctions, banning import of Ukrainian chocolates and its main leverage – natural gas exports to and through Ukraine. Ukraine’s cabinet stated in a decree that the decision to jettison the Association Agreement was due to the need to consolidate economic ties with Russia. The government also proposed to create a trilateral commission between Kiev, Moscow and Brussels instead of the previously planned joining EU-led project. The Ukranian Rada also rejected draft laws intending to allow jailed opposition leader Yulia Timoshenko to seek medical treatment abroad. EU officials have been demanding her release as a prerequisite for signing the Association Agreement. She’s serving a 7-year sentence on corruption charges while the West and her followers claim it’s a politically motivated imprisonment.
Ukraine followed Armenia which Russia subjugated to its will in early September when Armenia suddenly announced abandoning of 3.5 year negotiations with EU and joining Russian-led Customs Union instead.