Ukraine signed a free-trade and political co-operation agreement with the European Union on Friday that has been at the heart of the country’s political crisis, drawing an immediate threat of “grave consequences” from Russia. Georgia and Moldova, also former Soviet republics, signed similar deals, holding out the prospect of deep economic integration and unfettered access to the EU’s 500 million citizens.
Over the last months, Ukraine paid the highest possible price to make her European dreams come true.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (pictured above right) told EU leaders at a signing ceremony in Brussels.
Russia immediately said “grave consequences” would follow. Ukraine’s former pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovich turned his back on signing the EU agreement last November in favour of closer ties with Moscow, prompting months of street protests that eventually led to his fleeing the country. Soon afterwards, Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region, drawing outrage and sanctions from the United States and EU.
This is a great day for Europe… the European Union stands by your side today more than ever before.
European Council head Herman Van Rompuy, speaking at the ceremony