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Ukraine Suspends Preparations for Signing EU Association Agreement

Ukraine's Cabinet says it is suspending preparations to sign a landmark trade and cooperation agreement with the European Union, after the country's parliament earlier in the day refused to pass legislation that would free jailed former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The order issued Thursday by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the process of preparing for the signing of an Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU had been suspended in the interests of "national security."

It also said Ukraine would resume an "active dialogue" with Belarus and Kazakhstan, members of a Russian-led customs union, and other former Soviet states with the goal of reviving trade and economic relations.

Ukraine's Cabinet suggested setting up a commission of Ukrainian, Russian and EU officials to discuss trade issues.

Earlier Thursday, Ukraine's parliament refused to pass a bill that would have allowed Tymoshenko's release, a key EU condition for signing the Association Agreement.

That agreement was to have been signed at next week's EU Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

Some members of Ukraine's opposition said Wednesday that the Cabinet's announcement was grounds to impeach President Viktor Yanukovych.

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