Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is due to sign a long-awaited association agreement with the European Union on Friday.
It was the decision by Ukraine’s former leader Viktor Yanukovych to renounce a deal last year and turn to Russia that triggered the revolution leading to today’s conflict in the east.
The economic part of the accord due to be signed in Brussels aims to establish a free-trade area.
Greeted by supporters earlier in Strasbourg, Poroshenko said:
“I am sure that today during my first visit to the Parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe and tomorrow in Brussels, where we will finally sign the association agreement, we will get a new thrust for reforms and we will witness the ‘Europeanisation’ of Ukraine. I am sure that it will be an historical day for us, Ukrainians, and for the whole world.”
Moscow has vowed to take “protective measures” if the deals the EU is to sign with Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova harm the Russian economy.
One advisor to President Putin has warned the agreement will spell “economic suicide” for Ukraine.
Three-way talks between Russia, Ukraine and the EU on how the accord is implemented will begin in July.
Moscow’s ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said to euronews that the accord would alter Russia’s relations with its neighbour.
“If Ukraine goes into association with the EU, then we will be obliged to switch to normal non-preferential regime of MFN – ‘Much Favoured Nation’ – which is normal for trade relations between most countries of the world, but Ukraine will no longer be able to count on preferential treatment,” he said.
Chizhov added that Moscow had no hidden political agenda, and that the issue was purely economic.
In Brussels, Ukraine’s President Poroshenko will also brief EU leaders on the current state of the conflict.
Germany’s Angela Merkel says his report may determine whether more sanctions are imposed on Russia, to force it to quell pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukraine.
The Ukrainian leader outlined his peace plan in Strasbourg – and criticised Russia’s support for it as inadequate.