Brussels tells Russia to stop pressuring Ukraine over closer EU ties

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European foreign ministers have warned Russia to stop putting pressure on Ukraine, as the former Soviet country seeks closer ties with the EU.

Gathering in Luxembourg on Monday, the EU’s  foreign ministers are discussing Ukraine’s progress towards the signing of a free trade deal with the EU during the Eastern Partnership summit next November.

But Moscow has been pressuring the ex-soviet member to join the Moscow-led customs union instead, reminding Ukraine of its heavy dependance on Russian gas.

‘On the Eastern Partnership, there are 3 to 5 weeks left until the summit and we need extra efforts from both sides, partners should deliver definitely but we also have to support them to help them to counter the pressure and also to think about the measures of irreversibility of the reforms. (…) Ukraine already moved on very important segments with regards to the electoral system, with regards to the prosecutor office and the Commission provided quite positive assessment so this is good news’, said Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Antanas Linkevi?ius

Seen as an important step towards EU membership, Ukraine hopes to sign the so-called Association agreement. But EU officials want Ukraine to deliver on a number of conditions, including the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office, an imprisonment that Brussels considers to be politically motivated.

‘It is obvious that Ukraine has not yet fulfilled the conditions. And immediately after this meeting, Radoslaw Sikorski, the Polish Foreign Minister and myself, we will go to Chisinau, to Kiev to review those things in the next few days. That could be the further moves that may happen’, said Swedish Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Bildt

Foreign affairs ministers will also discuss the situation in the Southern neighbourhood, with a special focus on Egypt, Syria, Libya and the aftermath of the Lampedusa tragedy.

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