Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko announced on Wednesday (2 December) that he was ready and willing to start last-minute negotiations aimed at persuading Russia that a free trade deal with the European Union, which will take effect on January 1, is nothing to be afraid of. The sudden change in Kiev’s attitude to the talks with Moscow came only a day after the trio of partners – Russia, Ukraine and the EU – failed to reach an agreement in Brussels.
President Poroshenko commented that Ukraine “proposed another consultation with the Russian Federation in order to demonstrate our readiness to help remove any barriers that would bring problems for Russia”. He said that his country was ready for “professional economic discussions”. In the meantime, EU Ambassador to Russia, Vygaudas Usackas, said that the block was optimistic about reaching a deal with Russia saying that “the EU maintains its level of engagement in the trilateral talks and hopes that the parties will come to a common understanding by December 31st”.
In November 2013, Ukraine rejected the EU-Ukraine association agreement under the presidency of pro-Kremlin president Viktor Yanukovych. This move triggered major protests and riots staged by mainly ethnic Russians who wanted close ties with Russia. These events eventually led to the ouster of the government of then-President Yanukovych and to the annexation of Crimea in March 2014.
The conflict in Crimea and Russia’s continuous destabilization of Ukraine have also had a serious impact on the EU’s relations with Moscow, which has led Brussels to introduce sanctions against its biggest neighbor and the third biggest trading partner. The EU has suspended talks on visas, most EU-Russia cooperation programs as well as a new EU-Russia agreement, which should replace the current basis for cooperation – the 1994 Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).