Ukraine brushes aside Russia trade zone offer
Ukraine said Friday it would push ahead with plans to create a free trade zone with the European Union despite Russian promises of a lower gas bill if it joined a rival customs union led by Moscow.
Any negotiations to enter the Russian-led bloc "will not be made at the expense of a free trade zone with the EU," the Interfax news agency quoted Ukrainian Foreign Minister Konstantyn Gryshchenko as saying.
Russia has created a loose free-trade alliance with Belarus and Kazakhstan amid Moscow efforts to build a broader economic organisation that could be joined by other former Soviet republics seeking closer ties.
On Thursday, a top official at Russia's natural gas giant Gazprom said Ukraine's membership in the Moscow-led group would allow Ukraine to save about $8 billion a year.
Ukraine imports most of its energy from Russia and has struggled to come up with payments in recent years.
Russia has responded by sometimes halting natural gas supplies to Ukraine and, as a consequence, to other European countries that import Russian energy through the same pipelines.
One Ukrainian diplomat told local news agencies the Gazprom offer was "not serious".
© 2011 AFP