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Brussels Says Russia Drops Opposition To EU-Ukraine Trade Deal Starting 2016

The European Union says Russia has dropped its demands for a further delay in a landmark EU-Ukraine trade deal and accepts that it will now begin next year.

Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem made the statement after talks with Russian and Ukrainian officials on May 18 in Brussels.

"The reference that the [trade agreement] enter into force on January 1, 2016, was not contested by the Russian delegation," Malmstroem said.

Russia had said that the EU-Ukraine Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement will damage its own economic ties and interests in Ukraine.

The free-trade deal is part of the broader EU Association Agreement whose rejection by Kremlin-backed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in late 2013 sparked the protests that led to his downfall and the current crisis in Ukraine.

The deal was finally agreed in June 2014 and was originally due to come into effect in January.

But in September the EU postponed implementation for a year to support peace efforts in eastern Ukraine.

In return, Russia promised to abstain from retaliatory economic measures.

Based on reporting by AFP and Interfax