The European Union and Ukraine’s interim government signed a landmark association agreement on Friday, committing the two to closer economic and political ties.
The deal is the same agreement rejected by former president Viktor Yanukovich last November, a move that led to months of fierce protests and his eventual overthrow.
The EU’s 28 leaders and interim Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk signed the core chapters of the Association Agreement on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels, officials who witnessed the ceremony told Reuters.
Major parts of the agreement concerning free trade will only be signed after Ukraine has held new presidential elections in May, however.
Russia’s upper house approves Crimea annexation
News of the deal came as Russia’s upper house of parliament voted unanimously to approve a treaty on annexing Ukraine’s Crimea region, seized by Russian troops two weeks ago in the wake of Yanukovich's ouster.
The Federation Council followed the State Duma lower house by voting for the treaty. President Vladimir Putin was expected to complete the ratification process by signing the treaty at a ceremony with the speakers of both chambers later on Friday.
"We have been not witnesses but participants in the historical events that happened in recent days and with a feeling of dignity, responsibility and patriotism, we have fulfilled our historic mission too," said speaker Valentina Matviyenko after the vote.
Moscow’s decision to annex Crimea prompted US President Barack Obama to announce a second round of punitive sanctions against Russia on Thursday.
Overall, 20 Russian citizens, several of whom are close to President Vladimir Putin, as well as the country’s Rossiya Bank have been singled out for sanctions.
But Putin said Friday that Russia would hold off on introducing further sanctions of its own against US officials, at least for the time being.
"I think we should for now hold off on reciprocal steps," Putin told a meeting of his Security Council in comments released by the Kremlin, while also saying he would open an account in the Russian bank targeted by the latest US sanctions.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP, REUTERS)
Date created : 2014-03-21