Brussels Increases Pressure on Russia as Ukraine Signs the EU Pact

Written by | Friday, June 27th, 2014

Just before Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko was about to sign his country’s EU association pact in Brussels yesterday (26 June), Russia was issued a stern warning by Western powers on Wednesday that it could face new sanctions if Moscow did not do more to defuse the conflict still simmering in eastern Ukraine. The Association Agreement is the very same pact that Yanukovich refused to sign in January under heavy pressure from Russia, which had wanted Ukraine’s 45 million people to join its own Eurasian Economic Union. Moscow has already declared it would respond by applying import duties to Ukrainian goods. The warning from Brussels came even after Russia’s parliament’s upper house fulfilled a request by President Vladimir Putin to withdraw the country’s right to invade Ukraine it had granted him in March. Yet, a leading lawmaker has also stressed that this power could be quickly restored if required. The warning from Brussels should be seen in light of the Western governments’ position that they would not judge Russia according to just one law being repudiated but rather by the progress that was made to end the fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after both sides agreed on a bilateral ceasefire, rebels shot down a Ukrainian military helicopter, killing all nine on board. This development has led to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko ordering his troops to return fire if attacked while asserting that he might call off the ceasefire altogether. Moscow has steadfastly denied Western accusations that it has allowed fighters to cross into Ukraine equipped with heavy weaponry to confront Ukrainian government forces while it’s also keeping its own troops close to the border to put pressure on Kiev. To that end, Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters earlier this week that “I regret to say that we see no signs that Russia is respecting its international commitments.” Apart from signing the landmark Association Agreement with Kiev, the agenda of the ongoing EU summit also focuses on Russia’s reaction to the signature of the Association Agreements with Moldova and Georgia. Commission President José Manuel Barroso announced that a trilateral consultation at ministerial level over the consequences of the AAs with Russia and Ukraine would be held in Brussels on 11 July. According to Barroso, the EU needed to remain “active and vigilant” with respect to its Eastern neighborhood, in particular after the signature of the AAs “where our responsibility increases and not diminishes”.

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