YALTA, Ukraine (The Associated Press) – Lithuania's President said Friday that the EU will not sign a key cooperation deal with Ukraine until former premier Yulia Tymoshenko is released from jail, but the Ukrainian leader declined to commit to a solution.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, said Friday that Ukraine will have to implement key reforms in order to sign a cooperation deal with the EU in November, including resolving the issue of Tymoshenko, whose jailing the West condemns as politically motivated.
"Without that there will be no signature and I want to be very clear – no illusions about that something will be a little bit done," she said, speaking in English at an international conference devoted to Ukraine's efforts to integrate with the West.
Russia opposes the deal and wants to woo Kiev into a Moscow-led economic union. It recently hiked pressure on Kiev to stray away from the EU deal by temporarily halting some Ukrainian imports at its border, hitting Ukrainian companies hard.
But EU officials insisted Friday that European solidarity with Ukraine in the face of Russian pressure does not exempt it from releasing Tymoshenko.
"There is not any reason to change the position, even only because of pressure of third countries," Grybauskaite said.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Tymoshenko's long-time foe, refused to commit to freeing Tymoshenko or a currently discussed option of allowing her to be treated in Germany for a back problem.
"We are trying, we are looking today for how to approach this most difficult question regarding Tymoshenko," Yanukovych told the conference. "We haven't said either 'yes' or 'no' yet."