KIEV, Aug. 9 – President Viktor Yanukovych on Thursday signed into law the ratification of a free trade agreement with Russia and six other former Soviet states 10 months after its signature by the prime minister.
Yanukovych acted after Parliament ratified the agreement at an emergency session on July 30, and weeks after Russian President Vladimir Putin had complained about Ukraine delaying the ratification.
The agreement allows the free trade of goods and services between Ukraine and Russia and six other countries, but it also has a list of exceptions, restricting trade in key commodities, such as crude oil, natural gas, sugar, and others.
The agreement was signed by Prime Minister Mykola Azarov in October 2011 at a meeting in St. Petersburg between prime ministers of Commonwealth of Independent States.
“For us the most sensitive is sugar,” Azarov said after signing the agreement. “It was always on the list of restrictions, but we have agreed for the first time that we will lift the restrictions in a certain amount of time.”
Oleh Medvedev, a strategist for the opposition Batkivshcyna party, criticized the agreement for not giving Ukraine full access to the markets and commodities.
“We are free to trade everything, except for selling freely to Russia our sugar – the commodity that we have to sell,” Medvedev said. “And we’re also not free to buy oil and gas – something that we need to buy.”
Yanukovych said later the CIS free trade agreement is not aimed at reversing Ukraine’s policy towards integration with the European Union.
The agreement would come into effect after it is ratified by the parliaments of the eight countries.
Besides Russia and Ukraine the six other signatory nations were Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova and Tajikistan.
The joining of Ukraine to the CIS free trade agreement is significant as Kiev had repeatedly refused to accept a deeper integration into Moscow-led trade bloc, known as the Customs Union and which includes Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.
Putin, during his meeting with Yanukovych last month, said joining the Customs Union would help Ukraine to reduce dramatically natural gas prices. (tl/ez)