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Ukraine chooses east over west

Friday, November 22, 2013 - 02:34

Nov 22 - Protests continued in Kiev a day after Ukraine abandoned a landmark deal with the EU. The Government will revive trade talks with Russia instead, after parliament rejected the release of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko from prison, which was one of the EU's preconditions to the deal. Despite the set-back, the bloc's still hoping to make progress at next week's Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius. Ivor Bennett reports.

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Ukraine is Europe they shout - geographically true maybe, but politically, there's still a long way to go. Protests continued in Kiev's main square a day after the government spurned a landmark deal with the EU, choosing instead to revive trade talks with Russia. Hundreds braved the pouring rain to voice their anger. (SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR, MAXYM DILIGULASHVILI, SAYING: "I know, it sounds probably pompous, but if they are killing your dream, you want to go out and strike them in the face. That's probably why I'm here!" It was a case of east or west for Ukraine's Parliament. On one side - a free trade and cooperation agreement with the European Union. On the other - a Customs Union with Russia and other old Soviet allies. According to Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, the pivot east was for economic reasons only. (SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) UKRAINIAN PRIME MINISTER, MYKOLA AZAROV, SAYING: "What can compensate the enormous losses of closing of the Customs Union markets? I'm asking you, what?! Unfortunately we didn't get a realistic answer to this question." But opposition leaders don't agree, greeting the decision with shouts of shame. The EU pact was binned after parliament rejected the release of opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko from prison - her image worn by her supporters. Allowing the former Prime Minster to receive medical treatment in Germany was a pre-condition to the deal. It was supposed to be signed at a summit next week. Despite the set back, the EU's still hoping to make some progress. Foreign policy spokesperson Maja Kocijancic. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SPOKESPERSON FOR EUROPEAN UNION FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF CATHERINE ASHTON, MAJA KOCIJANCIC, SAYING: "This is a disappointment. There are still concrete deliverables that we hope to achieve at the summit but obviously we were very much hoping to have this signature." But according to Nick Parsons from National Australia Bank, the bloc has bigger fish to fry. SOUNDBITE (English) NICK PARSONS, HEAD OF MARKETS STRATEGY, NATIONAL AUSTRALIA BANK, SAYING: "I think it's got enough problems consolidating the existing members, and trying to get agreement there. I think it's always going to be a wish, a desire, and ambition, but I think in terms of practical reality, further eastward expansion is not high on the agenda at the moment." Protests began in the Ukrainian capital soon after the deal was abandoned, and continued through the night. While Ukraine's connections with Russia run deep - much of the country are native Russian speakers - it's clearly an association many want to replace.

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Ukraine chooses east over west

Friday, November 22, 2013 - 02:34