MOSCOW, March 18 (RIA Novosti) – Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev on Monday dismissed the possibility of Ukraine joining the post-Soviet trade bloc of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan on special terms.
“Our Ukrainian friends like to talk about the issue of joining [the Customs Union] under a ‘three plus one format’ and so on. But it can’t be this way. It's either everything or nothing, but in the latter case this looks like observer status or something else,” the prime minister said.
“Full-fledged participation requires ratification, and the signing of all documents,” Medvedev said.
Ukraine, which has few energy resources of its own, relies heavily on gas imports from Russia. The 2009 gas deal signed between Moscow and Kiev tied the price for Russian gas to international oil prices, which have risen significantly since 2009, boosting Ukraine's bill.
Russia has said on numerous occasions it could cut gas prices for its neighbor, if Ukraine joins the Customs Union.
Ukraine, which has proclaimed a strategic course of Euro-integration, is reluctant to become a full member of the Moscow-led Customs Union, because such a deal would rule out signing a free trade agreement with the European Union. Kiev has proposed cooperating with the union under a "three plus one" format, an option that does not suit Moscow.
A spokesman for Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said on Monday, after Medvedev’s statement, that Ukraine was interested in observer status in the Customs Union.
“Ukraine is indeed interested in becoming an observer at the Customs Union, because this association has a vast and long-developed regulatory base that is practically unknown to us,” Vitaly Lukyanenko said, adding that Kiev would have to "study" the trade bloc's practices.