Moscow Ups Trading Bloc Pressure On Kiev

MOSCOW, Russia -- Russia on Tuesday stepped up pressure on Ukraine to join a Moscow-led led trade bloc, warning that those countries that don’t would face serious trade difficulties.

Russian Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin (L) speaks with Belarus' President Alexander Lukashenko (2nd L), as Kyrgyzstan's President Almazbek Atambayev (R) speaks with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovych during an informal meeting outside Moscow March 20, 2012.

President Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday visited Moscow to join a meeting of regional leaders as his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev showcased the trade bloc, the Customs Union.

“We spoke about advantages the Customs Union gives, and certain difficulties that may emerge and are already emerging for the countries that are not members,” Medvedev said at the meeting, according to his press service.

“That’s life,” Medvedev said.

“If you don’t join this international entity, you will have difficulties. We thought it was important to deliver our position to some countries.”

The comments come weeks after Moscow banned imports of a number of Ukrainian cheese products, forcing Ukrainian companies to scale back production and lay off personnel to prevent losses.

The Russian state consumer protection agency alleged the cheese products do not meet quality standards, a charge that had been vehemently denied by the Ukrainian companies and the Ukrainian government.

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin last year said that Ukrainian steel companies may become the target and steel imports restricted unless Ukraine joins the Customs Union.

The joining of the Customs Union would automatically derail Ukraine’s attempts to join a free trade agreement with the European Union, further postponing its European intergration.

Ukraine’s trade with Russian reached $50 billion in 2011, up from about $40 billion in 2008, suggesting that the trade had improved to levels exceeding those before the financial crisis.

Yanukovych on Tuesday also met Putin, and the Russian prime minister has called on Kiev to ratify the free trade agreement with Russia, which was signed in October 2011.

“You could, in a synchronized move, with Dmitry Anatoliyevich [Medvedev] sign the law on ratification of the free trade agreement,” Putin said.

The free trade agreement covers the area of 260 million people, including Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Belarus and other countries.

Source: Ukrainian Journal