Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister whose jailing has been a sticking point in negotiations for a trade trade deal withe the European Union, asked the 28-nation bloc to scrap conditions for an accord.
Tymoshenko urged EU leaders gathering tomorrow for a two-day summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius to drop her release as a pre-requisite for the agreement, according to a letter posted on her party’s website today. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych today said the country needs to resolve issues plaguing its relationship with Russia before it can sign.
“This document is kind of a time machine that will take us from the past and move us into the European reality,” Tymoshenko said in the letter. “If Yanukovych makes a positive decision, I’m earnestly asking you to sign the agreement with no hesitation or conditions, including about my freedom.”
Ukraine’s government on Nov. 21 suspended preparations for the EU agreement, freezing a process that would have cemented the place of the nation of 45 million in the trading bloc’s orbit. That sparked the biggest street protests since the Orange Revolution nine years ago, in which an opposition group including Tymoshenko overturned a presidential election initially won by Yanukovych.
EU leaders have since insisted that the door remains open for Ukraine, an essential energy transit route between Russia and the West. Russia wants to lure the country to its own customs union that includes Kazakhstan and Belarus.
Yanukovych, speaking in a televised interview, today said that he still aims to complete an EU trade deal before his presidential term ends in 2015.
“Today, we can’t answer the question of when,” said Yanukovych, who pledged to travel to the EU summit, where the agreements were scheduled to be signed. “December will show whether it’s possible to sign the agreement in spring next year.”
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