Ukraine in difficult spot between EU and Russia over future trade

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Ukraine in difficult spot between EU and Russia over future trade

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Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich has a major obstacle to overcome if the former Soviet republic is to sign free trade and association agreements with the European Union. That obstacle’s name is Yulia Tymoshenko, as the president has recognised.

The former prime minister, Tymoshenko has spent most of the past two years in a prison hospital with back trouble. She is in over an abuse of poser conviction, in a case which many in the EU consider to have been one of selective or questionable justice.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, while visiting the Ukrainian capital a few days ago, reiterated that Berlin is willing to help her – and, by implication, Kiev.

Westerwelle said: “We have proposed that Mrs Tymoshenko be treated in Germany; the proposal remains; it’s obviously a contribution to a common solution.”

Kiev is also under pressure from Russia to join its Customs Union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. Moscow stepped up checks at its border with Ukraine in August, to show it was serious.

Ukrainian-made well-known Roshen chocolates are not allowed in Russia at the moment, an example of just one of the products Kiev is being warned could be banned if it continues on its EU negotiations.

Moscow has also been skirmishing over trade with Lithuania, banning dairy products from that EU member, saying it is to protect consumers.

Nerijus Maciulis, chief economist at Swedbank in Lithuania, discussed other possible grounds: “The reason behind the embargo cannot be economic, because Lithuanian exports make up less than one percent of (the) total Russian food product market, so obviously we have to look for the political reasons. It could be many reasons, it could be related to the possible signing of the association agreement between EU and Ukraine, it could be related to Lithuania’s current negotiations with Gazprom.”

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite in September spoke out against pressures being brought on Ukraine to force it away from closer EU dealings. Lithuania was the first of the former Soviet republics to declare its independence, in 1990.