Ukrainian President 'Intends to Sign' EU Deal After All

Protests continue despite reports of Ukrainian president's intent to sign EU deal.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych, left, greets EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton prior their talks in Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2013.
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The European Union trade agreement that was abruptly nixed last month, sparking protests and political unrest that has crippled Kiev for weeks may be accepted after all. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said he "intends to sign" the deal, which is expected to bring long-term economic stability and advancement to the former Soviet republic.

Yanukovych withdrew from the trade deal in November saying Ukraine could not risk sacrificing trade with Russia. Russia is worried the EU free trade deal would flood the Russian market and was hoping to entice Ukraine to sign a Eurasian customs union agreement that would impose heavy tariffs on imports outside of the union, including the EU, BBC reports.

"We are not imposing anything on anyone, but if our [Ukrainian] friends want joint work [on the Customs Union] we are ready for a continuation of that work at expert level," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an address to the Russian Parliament on Thursday.

"I'm sure achieving Eurasian integration will only increase interest from our other neighbors, including from our Ukrainian partners," Putin continued.

[READ: U.S., John Kerry Disgusted With Ukrainian Response to Protests]

In spite of Russia's offer, the Ukrainian president is willing to sign the EU free trade agreement on the condition that Ukraine is given $27 billion a year to upgrade its economy.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton confirmed Yanukovych's intentions to sign the EU association agreement after meeting with him.

Yanukovych "made it clear to me that he intends to sign the association agreement," Ashton said in a public statement. "Showing that he has a serious economic plan in signing the association agreement also will help to bring in the kind of investment that he needs," she said.

"From our perspective, we think that's good for this country. But the present crisis that's happening right now needs to be resolved," Ashton said.

Though the signing of the treaty that will create close ties between the EU and Ukraine is originally what protesters had called for, many say they will not relent.

"If the deal is signed now, I won't leave the protest," Dmitry Zhuk, 24, a Kiev resident who has joined the protests after his work day almost every day since they started last month, told USA Today. "I don't think anyone will leave."

Many feel the police attempt to remove the roadblocks and clear the square of protesters late Tuesday night is a clear sign the current government is no longer following the will of the people, and needs to be removed.

[ALSO: Ukrainian Protesters Continue to Rally Despite Parliament’s Failure to Oust the Government]

"At first, it was indeed the protest for signing the association agreement with EU, but after what happened – all the force used against protesters – only someone who is completely ignorant can say 'OK, now everything will change to the best,' and go home," Zhuk said.

Orysia Lutsevych, aRussia and Eurasia program fellow at Chatham House think tank, spoke to USA Today about the situation in Ukraine and shares similar sentiments as Zhuk.

The protesters "saw that this government is not willing to listen to people, and is trying to pretend it's business as usual," Lutsevych explained. "But it's not business as usual for them."

But not all Ukrainians want a future connected to the EU. Some feel too much hype has been placed upon the EU deal, leaving many to ignore the possible burdens that may come if Ukraine secures itself with the EU.

"The protesting students heard a fairytale about Europe being a heaven, about a visa-free regime, and about secure life for elderly people," Anna Shyshkova, who witnessed protests, said to USA Today. "But many of them don't even think about the price that Ukraine will have to pay to sign [the] association agreement," Shyshkova said.

"I don't want a Greece scenario for Ukraine, with 300 billion euro debt, production quotas and destroyed vineyards," she added.

 

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