European Union leaders and Ukraine have, as expected, failed to sign an historic free-trade deal after a last-minute U-turn from Kiev.
Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovich still attended the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius.
But under economic pressure from Moscow, he has revived trade talks with Russia and nothing the EU said could make him change his mind.
“We want to have a strong relationship with Ukraine, we believe particularly on economic issues,” said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
“It is, of course, for Ukraine to decide what it wishes to do and there have been some good and important discussions with President Yanukovich here. What I would say is that the European Union door is open.”
Georgia and Moldova have signed initial political association agreements but the focus had been on Ukraine’s association deal. Its decision not to sign was strongly criticised by the leader of summit host Lithuania, which holds the EU presidency.
“I think that the Ukrainian people are disappointed,” said Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite. “It is not about Europe to be disappointed. I think today’s Ukrainian leadership is choosing the way which is going nowhere.”
As night fell and any chance of a deal evaporated, Ukrainian protesters outside the venue desperately called for a change of heart.
A few dozen held placards saying “Yanukovich, don’t steal the future” and “We are Europeans.”