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“Russia is not going to dissuade Ukraine from signing an association agreement and a free trade zone deal with the European Union, it is [Ukraine’s] sovereign right,” RIA Novosti quotes a government spokesperson as saying. “We are just calling to thoroughly analyse all pros and cons of such a move.”
“Russia is not pulling anyone into the Customs Union by force,” added the spokesperson.
The European Union recently replaced Russia as Ukraine’s largest trading partner with 27 per cent of Ukraine’s exports now going to EU nations.
Medvedev and Azarov will meet later today to attend a Russo-Ukrainian intergovernmental commission.
Russia had earlier warned Ukraine that the Moscow-led Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan would be forced to take protective measures if Ukraine proceeds with an impending trade liberalisation agreement with the European Union.
“If our neighbours resort to a substantial liberalisation of their customs regime with the EU, goods that are not bad in terms of quality and price would inevitably gush to the Ukrainian market, but they would be squeezing out Ukrainian-made goods from the Ukrainian market,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said back in August.
Moscow fears that cheaper EU goods could potentially squeeze out Ukrainian-made goods from the Ukrainian market and push them to the markets of the Customs Union.
The two post-Soviet states have been involved in a number of trade disputes, including some serious disagreements over gas supply.
Western economists have accused Russia of “turning on the heat” with Ukraine and other post-Soviet nations in the region to join the Customs Union.
“What we have seen during the past few weeks is brutal Russian pressure against the partnership countries of a sort that we haven’t seen in Europe for a very long time,” said Sweden’s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt last month, describing Moscow’s actions as “economic warfare”.
Earlier this year, Medvedev ruled out the possibility of Ukraine joining the bloc as an observer state in the so-called “3+1” format.
“Our Ukrainian friends like to speak about a 3+1 format and things like that. There will be no 3+1 format. It’s either all or nothing, but then it will be observer status or something else,” Medvedev said.
Daria Chernyshova in Moscow with inputs from Agencies for The BRICS Post