19 Oct 2011

Visit of Ukraine leader postponed by EU

1:03 pm on 19 October 2011

The European Union on Tuesday postponed a meeting with President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine after signs that former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko would not be released from prison soon.

The European Commission said the meeting was postponed to a later occasion ''when the conditions will be more conducive to making progress on bilateral relations between EU and Ukraine.''

Mr Yanukovych had been scheduled to meet European Commission officials in Brussels on Thursday to discuss a free trade deal and sign an agreement pledging closer cooperation with the EU.

Deutsche Welle Radio reports the EU's postponement of the signing was highly unusual, especially as it came at such short notice.

However, after meeting President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia, Mr Yanukovych said that Ukraine was still open to signing the deal if the EU would allow it.

''Everything depends on the progress we achieve in the immediate future,'' he said.

Deutsche Welle reports the EU has been very critical of Ukraine's trial of Ms Tymoshenko, who was convicted of abusing her office in the signing of a natural gas import contract with Russia. She was sentenced on 11 October to seven years in prison.

She has said the trial was a politically motivated attempt to silence the opposition.