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Yanukovych Gets Black Sheep Treatment In Europe

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, glass in hand, had an awkward exchange with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (center, back to camera) on the first day of the Third Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius on November 28.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, champagne glass in hand, approaches Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and digs right in.

"Good to see you here, but we expected more," she says as she shrugs her shoulders.

The "situation in Ukraine is very difficult," he appears to respond, in a video posted on the YouTube channel of the Lithuanian presidency.

WATCH: Merkel (at the 1-minute 48-second mark) and other officials chide Viktor Yanukovych, for the Ukrainian government's suspension of work on an EU Association Agreement:​

If this were a Thanksgiving dinner, Yanukovych would surely be the black sheep, made to answer to distant relatives for a potpourri of unfulfilled promises.

Instead it was a gathering in Vilnius of European leaders generally expecting -- until last week -- to initial an Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area pact with Ukraine.

In the 4 1/2-minute video, the Ukrainian leader is confronted by a host of counterparts -- European Commission President Jose Manuel Barosso, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, and Merkel -- for backing out last week of an Association Agreement with the European Union he had promised for months to endorse.

Although most of the conversation is difficult to hear, the video provides a rare view of the arm-twisting -- or hand-wringing -- that accompanies diplomatic negotiations.

It also shows Yanukovych's difficult balancing act, as he has attempted to move closer to the EU while also trying to avoid the costs of irritating Moscow.

Russia, which wants Ukraine to join its own customs union, had already cut off imports of Ukrainian chocolate and had threatened far harsher trade sanctions if Yanukovych signed an EU trade pact. Perhaps more important, is what was said privately between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Yanukovych in three secretive meetings this month.

Shortly after the final meeting, Ukraine's parliament, led by the president's Party of Regions, failed to pass a series of laws the EU had demanded as a prerequisite to the accord and Yanukovych announced he would hold off on signing an agreement.

There is no video of the Putin-Yanukovych showdowns, but their effect seems to have sufficed to convince Yanukovych to weather Merkel's cold shoulder in place of whatever discipline the Russian president had promised.

-- Glenn Kates

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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