Ukraine and Russia plan to approve a road map to improved trade relations on Tuesday, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said Sunday in a late-night interview on Ukraine’s national broadcaster, Inter TV.
The announcement comes just hours after a European Union officer said the EU had halted work on a trade agreement with Ukraine, after Kiev failed to show “clear commitment” to signing the deal, CNN informs.
Stefan Fule, European commissioner for enlargement and European neighborhood policy, said earlier Sunday on Twitter that the words and deeds of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and his government on the proposed pact were “further & further apart. Their arguments have no grounds in reality.”
Fule said he had told Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Arbuzov in Brussels, Belgium, last week that further discussion on the agreement was conditional on a clear commitment by Kiev to sign the deal, but he had received no response.
Last month, Kiev spurned the agreement in favor of closer economic ties with Moscow, and the prime minister’s Sunday night interview revealed new details about that relationship.
Azarov said that in addition to the trade relations deal, he hoped an agreement could be reached Tuesday on gas commerce, which would hopefully provide a solution for Ukraine’s unprofitable gas transportation system.
“We hope to renew negotiations about the three-party consortium, which would include Europe as well, to provide transparent conditions for gas transit and gas transportation system management,” Azarov said.
However, Azarov rejected claims that Ukraine is leaning toward joining Russia and other former Soviet republics in the Customs Union.
“These are speculations. None of the papers we have prepared are in any way related to the Customs Union,” he said.
Ukraine’s recent diplomatic activity has sparked mass protests. Thousands of people have poured onto the streets of the capital, angered by the government’s U-turn away from integration with Europe.
Setting up tents and barricades, they have stood their ground in Kiev’s Independence Square, or Maidan, paralyzing the center of the capital.
On Sunday the protesters were addressed by U.S. Sen. John McCain, who has been critical of Ukrainian authorities’ use of force against demonstrators.
“People of Ukraine, this is your moment. This is about you, no one else. This is about the future you want for your country. This is about the future you deserve,” he said to loud cheers and chants of “Thank you.”
“A future in Europe, a future of peace, with all of your neighbors. The free world is with you, America is with you, I am with you.”
The senator visited Independence Square on Saturday, where he snapped pictures with his cell phone as he met with opposition leaders. He was accompanied on stage Sunday by Sen. Christopher Murphy, D-Connecticut.