Russia May Obstruct Ukraine’s Signing of Agreement of Association with the EC

A summit of the Eastern Partnership is scheduled to be held at the end of November 2013 in Vilnius, during which after prolonged discussions Ukraine plans to sign an agreement with the EC regarding association and a free trade zone.

European integration has been a priority of the country's external policy for years, and signing the agreement is the first step down the road of the long process leading to the inclusion of Ukraine as a full-fledged member of the EC.

The positive effect of the agreement is that it enables Ukraine to obtain investment, new technology and even active external trading with European countries. On the other hand, Kiev will be required to implement a number of economic reforms and conform to the criteria of membership, which will take a substantial amount of time.


Along with concluding the agreement with the EC, Ukraine plans to enter the Customs Union, headed by Russia, which Belarus and Kazakhstan are also joining.

But Russia has admonished Kiev of possible consequences of the country getting closer to the

European Union. First of all, Russian President Vladimir Putin mentioned the impossibility of Ukraine joining the Customs Union if they sign the agreement as it stands. Russia would be required to take measures to protect its own economic interests and impose customs duties on goods imported from Ukraine.


Secondly, the probability is quite high that the rules for crossing the border between the countries will be made more difficult; Russians and Ukrainians can now cross their border using their regular citizen's passport.


And finally, the main tool that Russia has to pressure Kiev is the gas agreement between the countries. Ukraine consumes an average of 50 billion cubic meters of gas annually, 30 billion of which was supplied by pipeline from Russia in 2012, so Russia can use the "gas weapon" in the political struggle with Ukraine. The first signs of this can already be discerned: several days ago, Gazprom reminded Kiev of its debt for previous supplies of gas.


Aleksey Miller, head of the gas holding company, mentioned the delay in payment by Naftogaz Ukrainy in the amount of 882 million dollars for gas supplied in August. Despite the postponement of payment to October 1, 2013, the debt is still not paid. Later deliveries of gas to Ukraine by Gazprom based on the Russian gas supply contract signed in 2009, call for prepayment.


It can't be ruled out that the Gazprom claim is an attempt to pressure Ukraine, which is faced with a dilemma: choose the path to European integration or join the Customs Union.


D.V. Larionova - Research associate, Center for Structural Research