News / Europe

Ukraine PM Seeks to Calm Russian Fears Over EU Deals

Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov (file photo)
Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov (file photo)
Reuters
Ukraine's prime minister sought on Saturday to calm Russian fears over Kyiv's plans to sign a free trade pact with the European Union, saying in practice there would be no threat to Russia's home market.
    
Moody's Investor Service cut Ukraine's sovereign credit rating on Friday, partly on concern over relations with Russia.
    
Speaking at an international conference in the Black Sea resort of Yalta, Mykola Azarov also expressed frustration at Russia's refusal to reduce the price of its gas sales to the ex-Soviet republic and said Kyiv may be obliged to reduce further the volume of its gas imports.
    
Azarov's government approved plans this week to sign landmark agreements in November with the EU on political association and free trade - drawing new threats of retaliation from Russian President Vladimir Putin.
    
Russia says it fears its market could be flooded by competitive EU goods entering Ukraine free of import duties and being re-exported across the long border with Russia. It says it will introduce counter-measures to mitigate damage and has invited Kyiv to join a Russian-led customs union.
    
In the latest expression of Kremlin unhappiness, an aide to Putin told the Yalta gathering that Ukraine would face huge financial problems if it signed the agreements and he urged the Kyiv leadership to hold a people's ballot on the issue.
    
Saying 40 percent of Ukrainians were against the signing, Sergei Glazyev, who has made hawkish comments about Ukraine's pro-Europe policy before, said "Let us ... ask the Ukrainian people what choice they prefer."
    
Azarov, in his speech, dismissed the threat of illegal transit of EU goods into Russia as "hypothetical" and one which in practice would not happen.
    
"We are convinced that the signing [of the agreements with the EU] does not hold any risks [for Russia]," he said, adding that he would give personal assurances of this to Russia and its trade allies in the Moscow-led Customs Union.
    
But he had sharper words for Russia over its refusal to bring down the price of gas supplies to Ukraine which hangs heavily on the country's cash-strapped economy.
    
Ukraine pays what it sees as an exorbitant price of more than $400 per thousand cubic meters under a 2009 contract which Russia has refused to revise despite pleas by the Azarov government.
    
In a bid to break away from reliance on Russia, Ukraine is trying to secure alternative energy sources by stepping up domestic gas production, reaching shale gas and off-shore deals with Western companies, and possibly bringing in liquefied gas from foreign suppliers.
    
Azarov said Ukraine was pressing ahead with "a serious restructuring" of its energy policy to diversify energy sources.
    
"Over 3 1/2 years we have reduced our purchases of Russian gas from 41 billion cubic meters to 25 billion and we are frankly telling our Russian partners that if the contract, which they managed to acquire in 2009, is not re-drafted, changed, then we will go even further down the road of reducing purchases of Russian gas," he said.
    
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich on Friday re-iterated that Kyiv was committed to signing the key agreements with the EU at a late November summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, marking a pivotal shift away from its former Soviet master Russia towards integration with Europe.
    
But he refused to say whether he would free from prison his political rival, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who the EU says is a victim of "selective justice."
    
Tymoshenko was jailed in 2011 for seven years for abuse of office after a trial which she says was a vendetta by Yanukovich, and her continued imprisonment could still threaten the signing of agreements in Vilnius.
    
Moody's cut Ukraine's sovereign debt rating by one notch to Caa1 from B3, citing concerns over foreign currency reserves, new debt issuance and potentially worsening ties with Russia.
    
Moody's said it welcomed the forthcoming EU trade pact as positive overall for Ukraine in the medium term, but added: "The short-term credit negative impact of a negative reaction by Russia outweighs these benefits."

You May Like

Sunni-Shi’ite Divide Threatens Stability of Middle East

Ancient dispute that traces back to the Islamic Revolution fueling modern day unrest More

Shifting Demographics Lie Beneath Racial Tensions in Ferguson

As Missouri suburb morphed from majority white to majority black, observer say power structure remained static More

Video Artists Shun Russia's Profanity Law

Restriction is toughest since Soviet era, though critics reject move as patronizing and ineffective act of censorship in line with a string of conservative morality laws More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid