The EU has postponed any decision on a planned trade deal with Ukraine, foreign ministers from the 28-member bloc said on Monday.
Ministers had planned to decide today whether to ink a deal with Kiev on a so-called ‘Association Agreement’ at an EU summit in Vilnius, Lithuania this month.
Two EU envoys to Ukraine, former Polish president and Irish politician Pat Cox, have said a sitting of the country’s parliament tomorrow will be the last chance to vote on a law that would release jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
Tymoshenko is currently serving a seven-year jail sentence for abuse of power relating to oil and deals that she made during her second term as prime minister.
The EU calls the charges against her “politically motivated” and an example of “selective justice.”
Officials say Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich merely wants to sideline his major opponents.
The ‘Tymoshenko’ law, along with two other key reforms of the prosecutor’s office and the conduct of elections, was supposed to have been passed last week.
Lithuania, the current holders of the EU presidency, said no concrete measures would be taken during Monday’s talks in Brussels..
“I do believe today we will exchange views. I do not expect any decision today. On signing and also a decision on ‘non-signing’ which is also important,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevičius.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt told reporters that Kiev must make its mind up soon whether it wants closer ties with Brussels or Moscow.
“Vilnius is not Brussels so to say, so we don’t have enough on the table and Vilnius is the end of next week. Some turmoil is occurring in Kiev. We have a policy but whether President Yanukovich has a policy is somewhat more debatable.”
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said: “My urgent appeal to Ukraine is to act now, to agree to a viable path to the rule of law, and not play for time….time is running out.”
Russia has been pressurising President Yiktor Yanukovich’s administration to join its own planned customs union. The Kremlin has even hinted at economic sanctions if Ukraine signs a deal with Brussels.