The European Union missed out on a major opportunity to spread its influence deep into Eastern Europe on Friday and openly accused Russia of using unacceptable pressure to keep Ukraine from signing a landmark deal on closer association.

Even if the EU extended its geopolitical reach eastward by sealing association agreements with Georgia and Moldova, the belated refusal of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych to sign up to a similar deal largely spoiled the two-day summit with the EU’s eastern partners.

And most EU leaders pointed straight at Russia for using threats and bullying to keep Ukraine in step with Moscow.

“We may not give in to external pressure, not the least from Russia,” said EU President Herman van Rompuy in unusual blunt terms.

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso added that “the times for limited sovereignty are over in Europe,” alleging Russia still tried to consider Ukraine as a subservient neighbor.

“There was pressure for sure,” French President Francois Hollande said, adding that Ukraine was heavily leaned on, “notably through gas.”

The Kremlin has worked aggressively to derail the EU deal by offering Kiev loans and price discounts, imposing painful trade sanctions and threatening Ukraine with giant gas bills. Ukraine has had to suffer through several cold winter spells when Russia tightened the tap during politically sensitive times… see more

source: todayszaman