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

Video Indiana Controversy Points to Divergent Notions of Religious Freedom

Arkansas, North Carolina have approved similar laws that gay-marriage opponents say help maintain their beliefs in face of changing culture More

UNICEF Denies North Korean Measles Outbreak

Agency dismisses Russian media report after government, WHO assurances More

Turkey Seen Taking Harder Stance Against Militant Kurds

Stance comes as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is being seen as moving closer to generals More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedomi
X
Jerome Socolovsky
April 01, 2015 1:41 AM
Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Nigerians Welcome Buhari's Return to Power

Crowds of jubilant Nigerians nationwide have celebrated the return to power of former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. The retired army general won this year's presidential election with more than 2 million votes more than incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari's supporters hope he can strengthen the country's economy and security once he takes office in late May. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Gamma Ray Observatory to Open Soon in Mexico

American and Mexican scientists have completed construction of the world's largest gamma ray observatory, situated high in central Mexico’s Sierra Negra Mountain. The observatory's huge array of water-based detectors will soon start discovering secrets about black holes and supernovas. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

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