Friday 23 February 2018

EU halts trade pact talks with Ukraine

Pro-European Union activists during a rally in the Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine
Pro-European Union activists during a rally in the Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine

Harriet Alexander Kiev

The European Union suspended all negotiations with Ukraine yesterday over an historic trade pact, as 200,000 people converged on the main square in Kiev to demand the government align itself to Europe rather than Russia.

The EU announcement came despite large numbers on Kiev's streets aiming to put pressure on president Viktor Yanukovich.

Stefan Fule, the EU enlargement commissioner, said the "words and deeds of president and government" were "further and further apart".

Their arguments had "no grounds in reality".

He added that EU officials told Ukraine that further discussions required a "clear commitment to sign", but that had not been forthcoming and work on a deal had been put on hold.

The Ukraine government's opponents says that union with Russia would effectively reconstitute the Soviet Union.

They remain suspicious that Mr Yanukovich intends to agree to a customs union when he meets Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, tomorrow.

The diplomatic tug-of-war and conflicting statements have failed to dampen the spirits of protesters who have been rallying daily for over three weeks.

By noon, Kiev's Independence Square teemed with people from as far as the western Ukrainian city of Lviv and Luhansk in the east.

They poured out from the metro exits on to the city's main boulevard, Khreschatyk, chanting: "Out with the gang" and "Glory to Ukraine".

Led by opposition leaders, the crowd, waving EU and Ukrainian flags, sang the national anthem.

A mile away, a much smaller rally of about 15,000 government supporters took place. (©Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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