Russian President Vladimir Putin made his latest pitch on October 27 to convince Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to abandon the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement in favor of the Customs Union, the Kommersant-Ukraine newspaper reported on October 29. Their face-to-face meeting, held under top secret conditions, was conducted for more than five hours in the resort city of Sochi without any announced results. At the same time, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara and told him that the Customs Union plans to raise customs duties on Ukrainian goods upon the EU Association Agreement’s signing, Kommersant reported.
Zenon Zawada: We see a clear demonstration of an intention by Yanukovych to sign the agreement, yet little progress in resolving the last remaining obstacle. It’s that knot that is keeping Putin hopeful and active in seeking meetings to persuade Yanukovych. So we expect the Russian side will continue seek
ing more occasions to meet Ukrainian authorities until November 18, when the EU Foreign Affairs Council is supposed to reach its final decision on signing.
Any last-minute decision in favor of the Customs Union would undermine the long-term strategy of Ukraine’s oligarchy that is based on European integration. Yet Yanukovych has demonstrated repeatedly that he’s willing to sacrifice long-term strategic goals in favor of short-term pragmatic interests. Postponing the EU’s demand for pardoning imprisoned former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko creates the possibility for Yanukovych that he will receive an adequate enough proposal from Moscow to abandon the West.