Ukraine inches towards Customs Union with Moscow

15th January 2014, Comments 0 comments

The Ukrainian government approved Wednesday a programme of cooperation with former Soviet states that have joined the Customs Union, although rapprochement with the Russia-led bloc has fuelled continuing pro-Europe protests in Kiev.

The programme details cooperation with member states of the Customs Union up to 2020, though without "any mention of Ukraine's plans to join the Customs Union" until then, Viktor Suslov, Ukraine's representative in the integration process, told AFP.

Before the government approved it, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the programme offers a "detailed plan of developing trade and economic relations ... in the industrial, auto, aerospace, and ship-building, agriculture, transportation, and tourism sectors."

Kiev in November backed out of a long-discussed Association Agreement with the European Union, which would sealed closer cooperation with Europe, and instead signed a slew of strategic partnership deals with Moscow.

The unexpected reversal caused unprecedented protests in the capital of Russia's eastern neighbour, as hundreds of thousands of people demanded that the country is put back on a European path.

Russia proceeded to give a $15-billion (11-billion-euro) bailout to the country of 46 million people which had been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, saving it, at least temporarily, from the risk of default.

Ukrainian officials have so far denied that the country will join the Customs Union, as President Vladimir Putin has sought, a move feared by pro-European Ukrainians as a step back into the Soviet Union.

The trade bloc already includes the ex-Soviet states of Belarus and Kazakhstan, and Armenia's entry was recently approved by the country's parliament.

© 2014 AFP

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