The decision, first announced by Council President Herman Van Rompuy on Twitter, hardly comes as a surprise, as both Van Rompuy and Commission President José Manuel Barroso failed to mention the expected meeting in their weekly programmes published last Friday.
Yanukovich's visit was expected as a milestone event in view of the expected conclusion of a EU-Ukraine Association agreement and a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU by the end of the year.
"My meeting with Ukraine Pres. Yanukovich (planned for 20 Oct.) has been postponed to a later date when the conditions will be more conducive to making progress on the bilateral relations," Van Rompuy tweeted at 11.00 Brussels time.
Commission spokesperson Karolina Kottova didn't make it a secret that telephone contacts had taken place since sentencing of Tymoshenko on 11 October to seven years in prison for abuse of office in the negotiation of a gas deal with Russia in 2009, when she was prime minister.
The local press has reported that tension caused by Tymoshenko’s sentencing could be alleviated if the Ukraine’s government passed legislation decriminalising the charges against her.
However, the situation of Tymoshenko in fact worsened, as new charges were filed recently [more].
Asked by EurActiv to comment on whether the decision to cancel Yanukovich's visit was taken only with regard to Tymoshenko’s case, or it was taken in a broader context, Kottova said that there was a wider context of concerns over the rule of law in Ukraine.
Reportedly, Brussels is concerned over plans by Kyiv to introduce new legislation on elections, ahead of the 2012 legislative ballot. Ukrainian calls to wait for the final conclusions of the Venice Commission, the Council of Europe specialised body in assessing such legislation, were neglected, sources said.
Bloomberg quoted Yanukovich as saying that European Union protests over the jailing of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko won’t lead to her liberation.
“The point isn’t if someone likes the verdict or doesn’t -- in Ukraine or in Europe,” Yanukovych repotedly said. “The point is that there is a supremacy of law, there is a court that decides. Whatever decision the court makes, we must respect it.”
Even without meeting Barroso and Van Rompuy, Yanukovich is expected to land in Brussels on 20 October en route to Cuba, where he is going on an official visit.
But before that, Yanukovich is receiving today in Donetsk, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, for talks on gas prices. According to Ukrainian sources, Russia could substantially lower the price of gas it sells to Ukraine if Kyiv would cede control of the pipeline grid.
Russia is also trying to take on board Ukraine in a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan. So far, Ukraine has resisted the pressure and said it would only accept forms of cooperation with Russia compatible with its EU integration. The Commission declined to comment the question by EurActiv if the decision to cancel the meeting was not in fact pushing Ukraine in the arms of Russia.