Amid Protests, EU Puts Ukraine Trade Talks On Hold

The European Union has suspended trade negotiations with Ukraine, despite thousands of protesters demanding the deal be signed.

Amid Protests, EU Puts Ukraine Trade Talks On Hold
The New York Times / Sergey Ponomarev

On again, and then off again — just when trade talks appeared to be moving forward between the European Union and Ukraine, the EU has pulled out.

The EU enlargement chief tweeted Sunday that "work [was] on hold" and that Ukraine needed to show a "clear commitment to sign." (Via Twitter / @StefanFuleEU)

Ukraine has seen widespread protests since Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych decided to ditch his country's long-awaited free trade accords with the EU last month — blaming pressure from Russia. (Via Channel 4)

To quell the biggest anti-government rallies in the country since 2004, Yanukovych said last week he would sign a treaty, just later down the road. (YouTube / yanukovych)

But according to BBC analyst David Stern, the EU is seeing straight through what many see as an act. 

He writes: "EU officials, it seems, have called Mr Yanukovych's bluff, saying they will recommence talks when the Ukrainians show sufficient commitment. This means that the government has no way of satisfying one of the opposition's key demands - that the deal be signed immediately."

Likewise, Financial Times says lead EU negotiators have privately admitted their frustration with President Yanukovych and are skeptical of future agreements.

One EU official said, "With this guy you can never tell. He says one thing in your face and as soon as you turn your back he says something completely different. ... it's impossible to work like this."

According to Al Jazeera, Yanukovych is reportedly heading to Moscow this week to sign a trade agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which means protests are likely to continue.

"If it looks as if he's turning his back on Europe, that will galvanize resolve of tens of thousands of people who have been coming out for weeks now."

U.S. Republican Sen. John McCain is in Ukraine this weekend. He expressed words of support for protesters — demanding closer ties between their country and Europe. (Via ITV)

"We are here to support your just cause. The sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently. For all Ukrainians, America stands with you." (Via CNN)

Voice of America reports a poll released earlier this months shows 46 percent of Ukrainians favor a trade pact with the EU.