Ukrainian MPs are at loggerheads over the government’s shock decision to suspend negotiations on a long-planned trade pact with the European Union.
A day after the U-turn was announced, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov addressed parliament on the reasons behind the move.
Azarov insisted that the EU deal could not compensate for the country being shut out of a customs union with Russia, saying: “This decision was based purely on economic reasons. It’s a tactical decision. It is not going to change our strategic goal.”
The ruling Party of Regions stresses that the threat that Russia could pose to Ukraine’s economy cannot be risked. Presidential advisor Mykhailo Chechetov told euronews: “If Russia seriously starts to defend its economic interests, our industry would turn into a cemetery.”
Opposition MPs, however, are outraged and believe the ruling Party of Regions led by President Viktor Yanukovich has deceived the country.
Arseniy Yatseniuk, leader of the Batkivshchyna Party, told euronews: “This Ukrainian Cabinet has betrayed us. However, according to the Constitution, the one who personally organised it – President Yanukovich – can stop any government decision. Also, according to the Constitution, he must sign the treaty.”
Ukrainians have been shocked by the government’s dramatic volte-face on Europe.
Euronews’ Maria Korenyuk reported from Kyiv: “People are outraged. They’re concerned that, as a result of this, relations with Europe will be damaged and that the reforms started in order to prepare for EU integration will now be blocked.”