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Top EU lawmaker says EU-Ukraine deal now in danger

The head of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Thursday said the Kiev parliament’s refusal to release jailed ex-premier Yulia Tymoshenko for treatment abroad endangered a crucial EU-Ukraine deal.

Asked to respond to the Ukraine’s parliament rejection of bills that would have allowed Tymoshenko to go abroad, German MEP Elmar Brok said “that means that Ukraine does not fulfil the conditions.

“According to the rules, the agreement could not be signed,” he said, referring to an Association Agreement due to be signed at a November 28-29 summit in the Lithuanian capital, which is seen as a first step to European Union membership.

In a highly-awaited vote closely watched by the EU and Russia, the parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, rejected six bills enabling convicts to travel to other countries for treatment after failing to gain the support of President Viktor Yanukovych’s ruling Regions Party.

“Because of this vote, the last talks, and the recent attitude of Yanukovych, I don’t have the impression that he still wants to sign the agreement,” Brok said.

“I think this is because of Russian pressure.”

In Kiev, opposition lawmakers who had supported all the legislation shouted “shame” as the bills were rejected.

MPs from Yanukovych’s Regions Party, as well as their Communist allies, did not cast their votes in the voting on any of the six bills.

All six bills received 200 votes in favour out of 450 MPs in parliament, short of the 226 needed for the legislation to be passed.

EU leaders have made clear that Ukraine will only be able to sign the Association Agreement in Vilnius if it allows some form of release to Tymoshenko who was jailed in 2011 in a controversial abuse of authority case.

Pro-Tymoshenko opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk said that as a last resort, Yanukovych should sign a decree granting an amnesty to Tymoshenko, presenting the speaker with a symbolic copy of such a document.