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Ukraine's Cabinet Backs EU Association Agreement

EU envoys Aleksander Kwasniewski (left) and Pat Cox attended the opening ceremony of the parliament's new session in Kyiv in early September.
KYIV -- The Ukrainian government has approved the draft of an Association Agreement with the European Union.

The government's press service says the document was approved unanimously by the cabinet on September 18.

The head of the EU delegation in Ukraine, Jan Tombinski, told reporters in Kyiv that the agreement's approval represented an "important step" by the Ukrainian government and that its signing at a summit in Vilnius in November "will be a joint success of all citizens of Ukraine and the EU."

On Twitter, EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele called the move "clear proof" of Kyiv's "European choice."

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said the agreement raised the prospect of "a European quality of life" for Ukraine. He said Kyiv would meet the criteria for democratic progress laid down by the EU as preconditions for signing the document.

However, Azarov kept silent over the situation around his jailed predecessor, Yulia Tymoshenko. Brussels has declared that it will sign an agreement if Kyiv demonstrates progress in respecting the rule of law and reviews the imprisonment of Tymoshenko.

Tymoshenko's detention in 2011 soured Kyiv's relations with the EU and considerably delayed the signing of the Association Agreement.

Tymoshenko has insisted her seven-year sentence on abuse of power charges was ordered by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in a bid to eliminate a dangerous opponent from political life ahead of the 2015 presidential polls.

Azarov also said on September 18 that the signing of an Association Agreement with the EU would open new prospects for cooperation with the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia, as well as with other CIS countries.

Moscow has been pushing Kyiv to abandon its EU agreement and join its customs union instead. The Kremlin has warned Kyiv of retaliatory action and said it will forfeit special partner status if it signs up with the EU.

Russia has been imposing pressure on other former Soviet republics as well, pushing them to abandon their plans to get closer to the EU.

Meanwhile, leaders from Ukraine's Communist Party have announced plans to appeal the Central Election Committee's rejection of their call for a referendum on Ukraine joining the Russia-led customs union.

With reporting by AFP and ITAR-TASS