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

Obama: I Will Do 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace holiday due to its non-religious glamor, commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid