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Ukraine set to sign EU political agreement

PR dla Zagranicy
Peter Gentle 20.03.2014 13:10
Ukraine PM Arseniy Yatseniuk is to sign a political agreement with the EU on Friday following leaders of the 28-nation bloc deciding on whether to step up sanctions against Russia.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (C) arrives for a meeting of the European People's Party (EPP) ahead of a European Union summit, in Brussels, Belgium, 20 March 2014. EU leaders were to meet at the European Council from 20 to 21 March: photo - EPA/JULIEN WARNAND

The agreement, part of a broader Associate agreement, will allow closer ties between Ukraine and the EU and will be signed by PM Yatseniuk in Brussels during the current summit of the 28-nation bloc, even though the current government in the Ukrainian capital has only interim status following the ousting of President Yanukovych and his Party of Regions government in February.

The political part of the associate agreement says Brussels will support "Ukraine's gradual integration in the EU Internal Market {...] and to support Ukrainian efforts to complete the transition into a functioning market economy," according to the document's preamble, as seen by Reuters.

Protests erupted in the Ukrainian capital after Yanukovych refused to sign the complete associate agreement at a summit in Vilnius last November.

Yanukovych fled to Russia after he was ousted from power and has not commented on the annexation by Russia of the Crimea peninsula.

Poland's foreign minister Radoslaw Ssikorski tweeted on Thursday: "Has V. Yanukovych commented on the annexation of Crimea? Is he supporting his old or his new homeland? Methinks we are entitled to know".

Meanwhile, Ukrainian navy commander Serhiy Haiduk and several other hostages detained by Crimean authorities on Wednesday have been released, the Ukrainian presidential website said on Thursday, after Russia requested that the pro-Russian forces holding the officers release them.

But in a further sign of increased tension between Russia and Ukraine, riot police stormed a Ukrainian-owned confectionery factory located in the Russian city of Lipetsk and halted production, the Ukrainian government said.

A company spokeswoman said Russian authorities were investigating the firm, which was caught up in a trade row between Ukraine and Russia last year.

EU leaders are expected to increase sanctions against Russia at the summit in Brussels, following a ban on visas and asset bans imposed earlier this week against officials. (pg)

tags: Ukraine
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