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EU agrees to speed up Ukraine deal amid Russian pressure

European Union states agreed on Monday to implement a free trade accord with Ukraine immediately after it is signed, amid Russian pressure on Kiev against the landmark deal.

Lithuania, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, said envoys from member states agreed Monday that most of the deal could be applied without a lengthy ratification process.

“Once it is signed, it will be possible to implement around 90 percent of the free trade agreement, without a ratification process,” the Baltic state’s foreign minister Linas Linkevicius told AFP late Monday.

He said this would ensure the process could not be reversed, and that reforms continued in Ukraine.

Kiev is hoping to sign the Association Agreement at the EU’s Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November, which would be a first formal step on the road to EU membership.

But the EU has not given a green light yet, and continues to demand the release of Ukraine’s jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.

The deal would open up EU markets for Ukrainian exports and mark a decisive turn towards the West, stoking concern in Moscow, which considers Kiev to be firmly in its sphere of influence.

Russia has repeatedly called Ukraine to join its Customs Union of ex-Soviet states, warning it could restrict trade with Ukraine if Kiev chooses the EU.

Linkevicius said he could not deny that Russian pressure was among the factors that hasted EU consensus on Ukraine.

“All the processes are linked to each other. We have always declared that EU partners who have chosen EU integration will get our support,” he said.

Linkevicius said it also sent an important message to Moldova and Georgia, which expect to take the first step towards similar agreements at the Vilnius summit.