If Ukraine signs an EU association agreement it will have no chance of joining the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Tuesday.
He told a news conference with his Ukrainian counterpart Mykola Azarov that he did not know why Ukraine wanted to sign an association agreement and that he could not see any particular benefits for Ukraine of doing so.
“One thing is clear: Of course, after an association agreement is signed – and this is our open, simple and sincere position – it will be very difficult for Ukraine to join the Customs Union if it wants to,” he said.
“I believe [its] chances for full-fledged membership will be practically zero.”
Medvedev reiterated that Moscow wanted to build an “economic union, not some amorphous association,” so the “Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus plus Ukraine” formula was unacceptable.
On September 18, Ukraine’s government approved the draft European Union Association Agreement, moving the country one step closer to its final signing, which is slated for November.
Moscow has been increasingly pressuring Kiev to join the Moscow-led Customs Union, which would keep Ukraine under Russia’s sphere of influence. Although Ukraine has observer status in this bloc it has clearly indicated it will not seek full membership.
A senior European Union official sought to allay fears Friday that Ukraine’s signing of free trade agreements with the EU would lead to a loss of economic independence.
Stefan Fule, the European Commissioner responsible for the union’s enlargement, said Ukraine will receive significant material benefits from binding itself closer to the EU, and will retain the ability to defend its own economic interests.
The former Soviet state of Ukraine is one of several countries due to sign free trade agreements with the EU during a summit in Lithuania on November 28-29.