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10 Jun, 2014 12:20

Lavrov: Russia won't sanction if Kiev signs EU deal

Lavrov: Russia won't sanction if Kiev signs EU deal

Russia doesn’t see any obstacles to Ukraine signing the economic part of the EU association agreement, said Russian FM Sergey Lavrov. He added that Moscow will not impose any sanctions and will return the trade regime with Kiev to ‘most-favored’ status.

“We don’t see any obstacles concerning this process [the EU association]. We cannot forbid anyone to cooperate with these international organizations in the sphere of economic cooperation,” he said following the trilateral meeting with his counterparts from Poland and Germany in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday.

Russia will not impose sanctions on Ukraine if the latter signs the economic section of the Association Agreement with the EU, Lavrov added.

“We don’t have an obsession, as some of our partners do – a ‘sanctions itch’. We will not impose sanctions against Ukraine. We will return the trade relations to ‘most-favored’ status.”

Lavrov said Ukraine reserves the right to choose, adding that deeper economic integration with Europe would have “consequences” for an earlier free-trade zone agreement with the CIS.

“The choice has not been made. The choice is to be made by the authorities. And it is desirable that this choice is made, when all authorities will be completely legitimate in Ukraine and will have the people’s support, not like they are trying to do now - in a hurry, clearly demonstrating some nervousness, that they may not have enough time” the minister said.

On March 21, the authorities in Kiev signed the political part of the Association Agreement, which commits Ukraine and the EU to closer political and economic cooperation.

Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko said last Wednesday that he would be ready to sign the agreement establishing free trade between the EU and Ukraine immediately after his inauguration on June 7.

Poroshenko said that he expects this deal will “restore peace” in the country adding he wanted to defend “the aspiration for Euro-integration on the Maidan [Independence Square in the center of Kiev].”

“…and that is why I'm ready to sign the economic part of the association agreement and launch the free-trade zone with the EU immediately after the inauguration," Poroshenko said as quoted by ITAR-TASS.

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko.(AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky )

The economic part of the EU will imply that Ukraine would gain tariff-free access to the large European market as well as European goods, which the union expects will promote trade and investments and encourage labor flow. Overall, the unemployment in the eurozone is 12 percent.

The Association Agreement with Europe lies at the heart of the Ukraine’s half-year-long turmoil. People in Kiev started to flood Kiev’s Maidan square right after then President Yanukovich chose to put off the final decision on the economic integration with the EU.

Economically, the unrest has already translated into higher price for Russian gas, something Kiev strongly disagrees with. On April 1, Russia’s Gazprom canceled a 33 percent gas discount agreed earlier between Russian president Vladimir Putin and Yanukovich.

The final gas price Gazprom now insists on stands at $485 per 1,000 cubic meters, after another $100 discount for hosting the Black Sea fleet was canceled.

Kiev’s aspiration to sign the economic part of the deal comes amid a bloody military campaign in the east of the country. Despite Poroshenko’s intentions “to reach a ceasefire this week” voiced on Sunday, the military crackdown, ongoing in the Donetsk and Lugansk Regions since April, has intensified.

In the Donetsk Region city of Slavyansk, at least four residential blocks were damaged by Ukrainian mortar shelling overnight on Tuesday, self-defense forces told ITAR-TASS, stressing that the number of the victims and casualties is rising day by day.

Read more: Kiev's bloody eastern Ukraine campaign LIVE UPDATES

Slavyansk has been under Kiev mortar fire since mid-May. Much of the city’s residential area has been damaged, some homes totally demolished. Schools, hospitals, leisure centers and shopping areas have been hit, while people have been left without running water and power for days.

Those who have the courage to stay in the warzone are hiding in basements, while many take the decision to flee the country, leaving their homes for an uncertain future. Over 20,000 women and children from Ukraine’s southeast have crossed the border with Russia, taking refuge in the bordering Rostov Region in the last three days, regional authorities in Rostov said.

ussian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (C), his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L) and their Polish counterpart Radoslaw Sikorski hold talks in St. Petersburg, on June 10, 2014.(AFP Photo / Olga Maltseva)