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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid