NOVO-OGARYOVO, March 5 (RIA Novosti) – The Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan should seek to protect manufacturers from threats posed by the crisis in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Wednesday.
In a meeting with the presidents of Belarus and Kazakhstan, Putin described the current situation in Ukraine as “extraordinary” and said the country has to deal with a “grave, if not to say devastating” economic crisis.
“Negative consequences are possible for the Customs Union market. We should think together of measures to protect our manufacturers and exporters and to develop guidelines for further cooperation with Ukraine,” said Putin.
His hopes of persuading Ukraine to join the Customs Union were dashed by the uprising in Kiev against President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to seek closer ties with Moscow and reject a planned association agreement with the European Union in November.
EU states had accused Moscow of pressuring Kiev to join the Russian-led trading bloc by threatening economic sanctions to protect domestic markets if Ukraine signed the association agreement.
Putin said that the three member states should start drafting an accession treaty for Armenia, which made a surprise last-minute decision to ditch European integration in favor of joining the Customs Union in September last year.
A roadmap on Armenia’s admission to the group was signed on December 24, shortly after Russia cancelled crucial export duties for supplies of natural gas, oil products and rough diamonds to the South Caucasus nation.