VILNIUS (Reuters) - Ukraine will not back away from implementing a free trade agreement with the European Union on 1 January, 2016, despite Russian protests and threats of sanctions, Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said on Wednesday.
“Neither Ukraine nor the European Union will step back from the treaty and yield to blackmail,” Poroshenko said at a news conference in Vilnius with Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.
“We will not allow the gas politics and sanctions politics that Russia is using to politically influence the sovereign nation of Ukraine to change its political future. That decision will not be taken in Moscow,” he said.
The EU agreed with Russia last year to postpone the implementation of the free trade agreement with Ukraine by a year until the start of 2016.
Russia, which sees its markets as being threatened by the EU-Ukraine free trade deal, has warned Ukraine it will tighten trade sanctions against it if the treaty goes into effect. Kiev has promised to respond in kind.
“If Russia proved the real damage (of the agreement), we would be ready to discuss such issues. But so far Russia has been using unfounded arguments,” Poroshenko said.
The imposition in 2013 of sanctions on Ukrainian goods entering Russia has already significantly reduced trade between the countries, he said.
Reporting By Andrius Sytas; Editing by Simon Johnson and Richard Balmforth