News / Europe

Russia Makes New Attempt to Woo Ukraine

Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual state of the nation address at the Kremlin in Moscow, Dec. 12, 2013.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual state of the nation address at the Kremlin in Moscow, Dec. 12, 2013.
Reuters
Russian President Vladimir Putin made a new attempt to woo Ukraine on Thursday after the European Union and United States stepped up efforts to pull Kyiv out of its former Soviet master's orbit.

A day after European and U.S. officials held talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev, Putin used a state of the nation address to tout the economic benefits of joining a customs union that he wants Ukraine to be part of.

Yanukovych - who is seeking the best possible deal for his country of 46 million as it tries to stave off bankruptcy - provoked street protests in Kiev by spurning the chance to sign a free-trade pact with the EU last month and saying he wanted to revive ties with Russia instead.

But he has hedged his bets by making no commitment to join the Moscow-led customs union and holding out the possibility that Kiev could still sign an association agreement that would deepen cooperation with the EU.

"Our integration project is based on equal rights and real economic interests,'' Putin said of the customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, which he wants to turn into a political and trading bloc to match the United States and China.

"I'm sure achieving Eurasian integration will only increase interest (in it) from our other neighbors, including from our Ukrainian partners.''

Putin's ambition to create a Eurasian Union stretching from the Pacific to the EU's eastern borders depends largely on whether Ukraine signs up, bringing in its rich mineral resources and its large market, a bridge to the 28-nation bloc.

With thousands of people on the streets of Kiev demanding Yanukovych's resignation, the diplomatic battle over Ukraine's fate is heating up.

Yanukovych stands firm

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland came away with no obvious sign of a breakthrough after Wednesday's talks with Yanukovych.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, left, greets EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, left, greets EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.
x
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, left, greets EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, left, greets EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013.
"Yanukovych made it clear to me he intends to sign the association agreement,'' Ashton told reporters in Brussels.

But making clear that Yanukovych was holding out for money to help repay Ukraine's debts, she said: "What he talked about were the short-term economic issues that the country faces.''

Another EU official said there had been no change in Yanukovych's position. If anything, he said, the president's stance had toughened.

Nuland's visit was followed by a tough statement from Washington condemning the Ukrainian authorities over action by riot police who moved against a protest camp in the heart of Kyiv but later withdrew without ousting them.

"All policy options, including sanctions, are on the table, in our view, obviously that still is being evaluated,'' State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

She declined to specify what kinds of sanctions may be under consideration. But U.S. lawmakers are considering legislation to deny visas to Ukrainian officials or freeze their U.S. assets if violence against the demonstrators worsens.

European leaders say the trade pact with Ukraine would have brought investment. But the country's Soviet-era industry relies on Russian natural gas, giving Moscow enormous leverage.

Moscow has condemned what it sees as fierce foreign pressure on Ukraine, and the EU has accused Russia of using economic blackmail against Kyiv. Russian media have raised the specter of civil war in Ukraine to wave the flag for Putin.

Russia is widely thought to have been trying to attract Ukraine with the promise of cheap credits, reduced prices for natural gas and the promise of trade benefits. The alternative would be crippling trade sanctions and energy prices.

Asked what Ukraine was seeking at talks, one Russian official said bluntly: "Money!''

Without international aid, investors fear Ukraine will struggle to repay $7 billion of hard currency debt falling due next year, while it is also dealing with a large balance of payments deficit and unpaid gas bills from Russia.

The most Brussels has so far offered Ukraine is 610 million euros but EU officials are in discussion with the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other major financial institutions on ways to help Ukraine.

  • Pro-European Union activists shout as they listen to Ukranian opposition leader Oleh Tyahnybok, during a rally in the Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 13, 2013.
  • People pass by a barricade erected by pro-European integration protesters in central Kyiv, Dec. 13, 2013.
  • Pro-European Union musicians perform in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Dec. 13, 2013.
  • People pick up food inside the Kyiv City Council building which is occupied by pro-European integration protesters, Dec. 13, 2013.
  • Pro-European Union activists warm themselves near a bonfire and guard barricades on the main street Khreschatyk in Kyiv, Dec. 12, 2013.
  • Interior Ministry personnel block a street in central Kyiv, Dec. 12, 2013.
  • Pro-European integration protesters warm themselves by a fire in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 12, 2013.
  • Tents and belongings of pro-European integration protesters are seen near Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 11, 2013.
  • Riot police pull pro-European Union activists out from their camp in Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 11, 2013.
  • Pro-European integration protesters standing behind barricades confront a line of riot police approaching at Independence Square in Kyiv, Dec. 11, 2013.
  • Pro-European integration protesters line up in front of riot police in Kyiv, Dec. 11, 2013.
  • Riot police leave a bus after protesters threw a smoke bomb, outside City Hall in Kyiv, Dec. 11, 2013.

You May Like

Video Video Claims to Show Shi'ite Forces in Iraq Executing Sunni Boy

While not yet independently confirmed, brutal killing already has gotten attention of Islamic State followers on social media More

After Six Years, Little Change for Niger Delta's Former Militants

Nigerians who laid down arms in exchange for government amnesty subsidies fear program may end with upcoming presidential elections More

Vietnam Pushes for More Educated Drivers to Curb Road Deaths

Transportation officials hope that making a greater effort to get drivers to learn the rules of the road will reduce fatal crashes More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planeti
X
George Putic
March 04, 2015 8:51 PM
NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA Spacecraft Approaches a Dwarf Planet

NASA’s Dawn spacecraft will make history on Friday, March 6, when it becomes the first man-made object to orbit a dwarf planet named Ceres. It is located in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, almost 500 million kilometers from Earth. Among other objectives, Dawn will try to examine two mysterious bright white spots detected on the planet’s surface. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Muslims Radicalized Online

Young Muslims are being radicalized ‘in their bedrooms’ through direct contact with Islamic State or ISIL fighters via the Internet, according to terror experts. There are growing concerns that authorities and Internet providers are not doing enough to counter online extremism - which analysts say is spread by a prolific network of online supporters around the world. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video African Americans Recall 1960's Fight For Voting Rights

U.S. President Barack Obama and thousands of people will gather in the small southern U.S. city of Selma, Alabama, Saturday, March 7th to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a historic voting rights march that became known as “Bloody Sunday." VOA’s Chris Simkins traveled to Alabama and introduces us to some of the foot soldiers of the voting rights struggles of the 1960’s.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More