Ukraine may move closer to the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan if the European Union blocks its association agreement with Kiev, Ukraine's Social Policy Minister Serhiy Tyhypko said.
"If the European Union gives a clear 'no' signal, the possibility that Ukraine will turn to the Customs Union is quite high," Tyhypko told Ukrainian newspaper Den.
Russia has invited Ukraine to join the Customs Union, but Kiev has previously said the country is ready to cooperate with the union only in a so-called three-plus-one format.
Ukraine hopes to initiate an association agreement with the EU by the end of 2011. However, the conviction last week of Ukraine's former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, sentenced to seven years in prison for abusing her authority by signing a 2009 gas deal with Russia, may prompt the European Union to freeze its talks with Ukraine on the association agreement.
The EU has condemned Tymoshenko's prosecution as politically motivated, which Ukraine's President Yanukovych denies.