EU envoys are to visit Ukraine again next week in a last-ditch effort to break the deadlock over the case of jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
Her release for medical treatment is crucial to a proposed landmark trade deal due to be signed at a summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius at the end of November.
The prospect of either issue being resolved is in doubt after Ukraine’s parliament failed to agree on a draft law, which would allow Tymoshenko to be treated in Germany.
MPs from the pro-EU opposition showed their anger at the delay. They had hoped to vote on the bill on Wednesday. They accuse the government of deliberately trying to sabotage the EU trade deal.
“Over the past two weeks Ukraine’s opposition has submitted four different draft laws to enable Yulia Tymoshenko to seek medical treatment abroad. But the Party of Regions has not agreed on any of them,” said Arseniy Yatsenyuk, leader of the Batkivschina opposition party.
Russia strongly opposes the EU trade deal – it wants a Moscow-based customs union and has threatened counter-measures.
Some think President Victor Yanukovich may be cooling on his official pro-EU stance, but his party denies the trade deal is dead.
“If to be honest the Vilnius Summit were held tomorrow we would vote today. But the summit will be held on November 28,” said Party of Regions MP Volodymyr Makeenko.
The ruling party blames the opposition for refusing to co-operate on talks.
Yulia Tymoshenko is serving a seven year jail term for abuse of office after a trial the EU says was political.
The former prime minister is suffering from chronic back pain.
A criminal action brought against her lawyer has further soured the atmosphere.
But one of the EU envoys, the former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski still holds out hope:
“The Parliamentary working group is now working on the draft law that will enable Mrs Tymoshenko to go for treatment abroad. And we hope that all the issues and misunderstandings will be solved before the new parliamentary session next Tuesday November 19,” he said.
With the Vilnius summit only two weeks away, the envoys’ shuttle diplomacy continues.
Summit host Lithuania said there would be no success unless Ukraine produced “results”.
Germany has warned that time is running out for Kyiv to settle Tymoshenko’s case.