News / Europe

    Ukraine, EU Sign Free Trade Agreement

    Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko poses with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (L) and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy (R) at the EU Council in Brussels, June 27, 2014.
    Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko poses with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (L) and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy (R) at the EU Council in Brussels, June 27, 2014.
    Anita Powell

    Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko signed a landmark trade and economic agreement Friday with the European Union in Brussels, and said he would decide later whether to extend the unilateral cease-fire he announced a week ago in the military campaign against pro-Russian separatists.

    Poroshenko said Ukraine had paid "the highest possible price" to sign the free trade agreement with the EU. Calling the measure "historic," he said it was the second most important development in Ukraine following its creation with the 1991breakup of the Soviet Union.

    The EU-Ukraine Association Agreement is a political and economic cooperation deal that also frees up trade between Ukraine and the 28-member EU. It brings Ukraine one step closer to possible EU membership, and another step away from Russian influence.

    Russia criticized Ukraine's move. Russian President Vladimir Putin -- who on Friday called for a long-term cease-fire in Ukraine as a condition for talks between Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russia separatists -- said the agreement has forced Ukrainians into an "artificial" choice between loyalties to Europe or Russia.

    A girl and woman, respective draped in European Union and Ukrainian national flags, celebrate in Independence Square in Kyiv June 27, 2014.A girl and woman, respective draped in European Union and Ukrainian national flags, celebrate in Independence Square in Kyiv June 27, 2014.
    x
    A girl and woman, respective draped in European Union and Ukrainian national flags, celebrate in Independence Square in Kyiv June 27, 2014.
    A girl and woman, respective draped in European Union and Ukrainian national flags, celebrate in Independence Square in Kyiv June 27, 2014.

    Controversy over the agreement lies at the heart of the current crisis.

    It led to the February ouster of Ukraine's former pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych. In March, Moscow annexed Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, where loyalty to Russia runs high. The conflict spread to eastern Ukraine, where deadly clashes broke out between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian security forces. The United States and EU imposed several sets of sanctions against individuals and companies, mainly Russian, in response to Crimea's annexation and Russian involvement in the unrest in eastern Ukraine.

    The U.S., European and Ukrainian governments have repeatedly called on Russia to prevent militants and weapons from flowing across its border with Ukraine to the separatists.

    The Ukrainian government's week-long cease-fire is set to expire Friday night, local time. Poroshenko told reporters in Brussels that he would decide after returning to Kyiv whether to extend it by three days.

    Some rebels said they would observe a truce concurrent with Kyiv’s cease-fire, but violence in eastern Ukraine has continued over the past week.

    Cease-fire extended

    Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has extended a unilateral cease-fire with pro-Russian separatists for three more days.

    Some of the rebels have said they would observe a truce as long as the Ukrainian military does.

    The EU is demanding the separatists and their supporters in Moscow take steps to de-escalate the crisis in eastern Ukraine -- including holding "substantial" peace talks and letting a European team monitor the cease-fire.

    Western leaders warn Putin

    At the Brussels summit, EU leaders set a Monday deadline for Putin to demonstrate support for calming the unrest in Ukraine.

    In a statement issued Friday, the 28 leaders called for Moscow to meet several conditions, including visibly supporting the Ukrainian government's proposed peace plan, the French news agency AFP reported. Ukraine's government also should be granted oversight of three major border checkpoints, Reuters reported.

    Two other terms according to the Associated Press, include setting up a means of verifying the cease-fire and securing the release of all captives.

    If Putin fails to meet those conditions, Russia could face "further significant restrictive measures," the statement said, according to AFP. 

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel reportedly has warned Putin that the EU will consider a new round of sanctions against Moscow if it doesn't cooperate.

    The Obama administration says it also is ready to impose new sanctions if Moscow fails to take action to de-escalate the crisis in eastern Ukraine. The administration said it has delayed implementation as it presses for unified support from European and U.S. manufacturers for the measures.

    Several OSCE hostages freed

    Meanwhile, rebels freed four international observers they'd seized in Ukraine last month, Reuters reported. Eight representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had been detained while monitoring an agreement aimed at calming the conflict.

    The four were released to colleagues at a hotel early on Friday, Reuters said. .
    The agreement with the European Union brought out the push and pull between independence and belonging.

    Ukrainians react to signing, violence

    On Friday, central Kyiv filled with revelers. Among them, a troop of men and women in mismatched camouflage uniforms held aloft an EU flag, a Ukrainian flag and a Ukrainian army flag -- three symbols that encapsulate Ukraine’s desire for independence, strength and unity with the rest of Europe.

    "Glory to Ukraine!" they yelled. "Glory to heroes! Glory to the nation! Death to enemies!"

    It's clear they're referring to Ukraine’s biggest neighbor.

    Ukraine has accused Russia of funding rebels in the east. Volunteers in makeshift military uniforms have swarmed to the conflict areas to defend Ukraine.

    A representative of Poroshenko’s office said last week that relations with Russia are at an all-time low.

    On Friday, Putin adviser Sergei Glazyev called Poroshenko a Nazi. Earlier in the month, Ukraine’s former foreign minister publicly denounced Putin.

    For some, rising expectations

    The new EU agreement ties Ukraine to Europe both economically and politically, and many Ukrainians say they hope their standard of living will rise as a result.

    Civilians wait in a bus to flee from the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk June 25, 2014.Civilians wait in a bus to flee from the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk June 25, 2014.
    x
    Civilians wait in a bus to flee from the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk June 25, 2014.
    Civilians wait in a bus to flee from the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk June 25, 2014.

    In Kyiv, journalist Sergey Kolupov said he thinks the agreement will do even more.

    "I think," he said, "that Russia’s collapse starts from this signing, from the statements of Glazyev, who is not accepting our president’s legitimacy. It’s the biggest mistake in their country’s history."

    In the northeastern town of Sumy -- just 50 kilometers from Russia -- Volodymyr Shulga, head of the Sumy regional administration, told VOA his province is firmly European despite its close ties with nearby Russian towns.

    "I support the signing completely and think that today the majority of Sumy region residents do, too," Shulga said.

    Sumy resident Tatiana Viktorivna agreed, saying she envisions a better life through the EU.

    "I don’t know the details," she said, "but I know that Europeans live as human beings, not like us."

    For now, there is confusion and fear in eastern Ukraine. Fighting has escalated in recent weeks, with Russia sending tanks to the rebels across the border.

    With the end to the official cease-fire looming on Friday, witnesses said thousands of Ukrainians lined up at a Russian border crossing late Thursday, driving cars packed with personal belongings, in hopes of fleeing violence in eastern Ukraine.

    The United Nations refugee agency said Friday that some 110,000 people have fled to Russia from Ukraine, while some 54,000 Ukrainians have been displaced within the country.

    Georgia, Moldova sign free trade pacts

    Georgia, Moldova also signed free trade agreements with the European Union Friday and EU leaders named former Luxembourg prime minister Jean-Claude Juncker as the next head of the European Commission.

    The selection of Juncker came over the objections of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

    Speaking with reporters about Juncker's political win, the British prime minister said “Let me be absolutely clear: This is a bad day for Europe."

    Cameron said the decision "risks undermining the position of national governments, it risks undermining the power of national parliaments and it hands new power to the European Parliament."
     
    In the near future exports from the three former Soviet bloc countries will gain duty free access to the 28 member EU countries.

    In response to the signing of the accords, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin warned “There will undoubtedly be serious consequences” for this "economic aggression".

    Terms of the EU agreements require Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine not enter into similar free trade agreements with the Kremlin.

    Some information for this report provided by Reuters and AFP

     

    You May Like

    Vietnam Mulls Tough Measures for ‘Misbehaving’ Chinese Tourists

    Move comes after footage surfaced online of Chinese travelers harassing a banana hawker in Da Nang

    Pakistan Social Media Star's Honor Killing Fuels Debate

    Qandeel Baloch's murder puts spotlight on deadly tradition and other mistreatment of women

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: gen from: japan
    June 28, 2014 7:13 AM
    Ukraine was annexd by EU.Congratulations! It dosen't matter for Russia.The most matter for Russia is lots of refugees in the eastern part of Ukraine.Ukraine signing with EU is better for Russian intetests.But There are over100,000refugees.Russian diplomats are ,day and nights, making efforts to solve the east region problem,instead of imcopetent kiev government and US which caused the original problem in Ukraine.Go for Russia.hang in there.

    by: Doug from: Canada
    June 27, 2014 8:18 PM
    Congratulations to the people of Ukraine for today you have chosen a path of freedom,democracy and a promising economic future and the United States,Canada and the EU welcomes you and we are ready to assist you as your nation moves forward to better times for all Ukrainans.

    by: gen from: japan
    June 27, 2014 9:25 AM
    Kiev governmet oust the russian-speaking Ukrainian to Russia,instead of banning speaking Russian in the east of Ukraine.During that time,sign an agreement with EU.Whose idea? CIA? Mr.Kerry?

    by: gen from: japan
    June 27, 2014 9:19 AM
    Such a shameful country is made by USA.The name of coutry is Ukraine.Nobody believe Ukrainian.

    by: 1worldnow from: Earth
    June 27, 2014 6:08 AM
    Hey Putin! How do you say 'ooooops' in Russian?

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Borderi
    X
    July 22, 2016 12:30 AM
    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.
    Video

    Video Number of Syrian Refugees Arriving in US Jumps

    The United States is committed to resettling 85,000 refugees from around the world by October. Of that number, 10,000 will come from Syria and already some 4,000 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States, many of them settling in the state of Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Chicago, their arrival is not the end of a difficult journey to find peace and stability.
    Video

    Video Rio’s Trams Await Olympic Tourists

    Over the past century, many cities around the world replaced electric trams, prone to breakdowns and backups, with faster and more spacious buses. But for some reason restored antique trams are a huge tourist attraction. So it’s no wonder the authorities in Rio de Janeiro are busy restoring their city’s old tram line ahead of the Summer Olympic Games. VOA’ George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora