News / Europe

Ukraine President Defends Decision to Scrap EU Deal

People attend a meeting to support EU integration at European square in Kiev, Ukraine, Nov. 25, 2013.
People attend a meeting to support EU integration at European square in Kiev, Ukraine, Nov. 25, 2013.
VOA News
Ukrainian President President Viktor Yanukovych has defended his decision to scrap a landmark trade agreement, while pro-Europe protesters in Kyiv held a second day of demonstrations against the move.

Yanukovych described the decision as "difficult, but unavoidable," and pledged to create a country up to European standards.

The president appealed for peace and calm in the country.

Skirmishes erupted Monday in a central square in the Ukrainian capital, with police firing tear gas at demonstrators protesting the government's decision not to sign the EU trade pact and instead focus on trade ties with Russia.
 
  • Police stand guard in front of protesters during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kyiv, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • Police stand guard in front of protesters during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kyiv Nov. 29, 2013.
  • A view of a rally in support of integration with the European Union, as a supporter waves a European flag from a building top in Kyiv, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • Students form a human chain from the Ukrainian capital to the western border during a demonstration in support of EU integration at Independence Square in Kyiv, Nov. 29, 2013.
  • People warm themselves by a fire in a steel drum during a rally in support of Ukraine's integration with the European Union in Kyiv, Nov. 28, 2013.
  • Ukrainian Opposition Party protesters hold posters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in front of the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv, Nov. 27, 2013.
  • Vitali Klitschko, WBC heavyweight boxing champion and chairman of the Ukrainian opposition party Udar, raises his arms as he and another opposition leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, try to gain entry to the Cabinet of Ministers in Kyiv, Nov. 27, 2013.
  • People warm themselves at fires made in steel drums after a meeting to support EU integration at European Square in Kyiv, Nov. 26, 2013.
  • Protesters demand Ukraine sign a trade deal with the European Union, European Square, Kyiv, Nov. 26, 2013. (Henry Ridgwell for VOA)
  • Protesters wear gas masks during a demonstration to support EU integration in Kyiv, Nov. 25, 2013.
  • Protesters clash with riot police during a rally to support EU integration in Kyiv, Nov. 25, 2013.

On Sunday, tens of thousands of pro-Europe demonstrators swarmed Kyiv in one of the largest protests since the Orange Revolution nine years ago.

Several hundred people supporting Yanukovych also marched through Kyiv for a second day Monday.  

The deal with the European Union was set to be signed this week at the EU Eastern partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.  

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Monday criticized Russian pressure over the accord, and said the EU offer remains on the table.

Russia is accused of exerting months of political and economic pressure including threats to Ukraine's oil supplies.
 
Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov told parliament Friday that the move did not alter Ukraine's strategy of EU integration.

The pact was suspended Thursday when parliament refused to pass legislation freeing jailed former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Her release was a key EU condition for signing the Association Agreement with Ukraine.

Tymoshenko on Monday announced that she would go on an indefinite hunger strike to force the government to sign the EU pact.

Check out our Storify with snapshots of the protests:

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by: Igor from: Russia
November 25, 2013 11:58 PM
There is no good for Uraine to join the EU because it's economy is collapsing. Ucraine's economy will fall following that of the EU. Only the richest countries in the EU benefit from the expansion of the EU. Russia is a better choice.

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