After securing a deal with Russia for cheaper gas prices and a more than 10 billion euro loan, Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych sat down with a selection of the country’s journalists to outline and explain upcoming government policy.
Journalists from Ukraine’s national print and broadcast outlets were invited to ask questions at the annual event which was televised.
Gas prices, economic recovery and a potential Russian-backed trade union, made the agenda.
But it was the president’s thoughts on ties with the EU that attracted much attention, after his government recently postponed a planned integration deal with the European bloc.
Victor Yanuko explained: “There isn’t any contradiction about Ukraine’s course on the integration issue. Generally, this is not about the integration, this is about economical relations. We have decided to pause (on the Association Agreement) to work out on what kind of conditions should be in place for us to sign the Free Trade Zone Agreement (a part of the agreement with the EU). And this answer should be found by the government.”
Yanukovich continues to face the ire of protesters in Kyev, for an apparent lurch away from the EU towards Russia.
The Ukrainian leader implicitly criticised Western politicians who have visited a protest encampment in the capital during the news conference.
“It is very important that other countries do not interfere in our internal questions, that they do not consider that they are the masters here. I am categorically against anybody coming and teaching us how to live,” he said
Asked if he plans to run for re-election in 2015, Yanukovich said he would not if voters were not keen.
“If my ratings are low and I have no prospects (of winning), then I shall not get in the way of the country developing and moving forward.”
He was elected in February 2010.