EU summit snub: Yanukovich to bail out

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (RIA Novosti / Ekaterina Shtukina)
In what appears to be a spectacular snub, Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanokovich is planning to be in Moscow on December 19, the date set for the EU-Ukraine summit in Kiev.

The Ukrainian leader  “will take part in the 32nd session of the Interstate Council of the Eurasian Economic Community, which will take place in Moscow on December 19," a source at the EurAsEC secretariat told Interfax-Ukraine. Ukraine has observer status in the Russian-led economic organization which unites several former Soviet republics.

The EU-Ukraine summit, where an Association Agreement with the EU may be initialed, is also scheduled for December 19.

The summit had been in doubt following the draconian jail sentence passed on Ukraine’s former prime minister and opposition leader, Yulia Tymoshenko, in October.  Yanukovich had been at pains to ensure the event went ahead as planned.

Ukraine’s foreign ministery said it had no information on the president’s planned visit to Moscow. However, a presidential aide hinted at diplomatic maneuvering.

“It should be taken into consideration that now it is the crucial stage of Ukraine's talks with the EU and Russia,” Anna German told Itar-Tass journalists. “It happens so that one must make an unexpected move on the diplomatic chessboard. And it is not always necessary to explain it.” 

A key issue of the Association Agreement is Ukraine’s entry into a free-trade zone with the EU. However, Kiev is pushing for a clause on Ukraine's possible future membership of the union to be included in the document.

"Ukraine insists that the prospect of its accession to the EU should be envisaged in this agreement. We believe that there will be no other agreement of such a kind, since it is not the EU's practice. Therefore, this one agreement is strategic and very important to us. It should include all of the elements that would promote the development of our relations and the process of reform in Ukraine," he said at a meeting with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, according to the Kyiv Post news website.

There has been much speculation in the media that the document might not be signed on December 19 following the jailing of Yulia Tymoshenko, which the EU has condemned as politically motivated. On October 11, she was sentenced to seven years in prison for abuse of power over gas contracts she agreed with Russia in 2009.

According to the deputy foreign minister, Pavel Klimkin, Ukraine has no principled intention to initial the Association Agreement at the Kiev summit.

"Our idea is to declare about the completion of the talks," Klimkin said, as quoted by Itar-Tass. He added that the agreement may be initialed when technical work on the document is completed. And that is quite a daunting task, since 1,500 pages must be approved by Ukrainian and EU negotiators.