MINSK, October 24 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday that it would be impossible for Ukraine to join a Moscow-led Customs Union if the country signs an association agreement with the European Union.
“It will be impossible since such association stipulates the creation of a free-trade zone between the European Union and Ukraine,” Putin said at a session of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council in Minsk.
However, he noted that Russia is neither for nor against Ukraine’s drive to join the European Union.
“This is not our [Russia’s] business, and this is a sovereign right of the Ukrainian people and authorities on behalf of the president, parliament and the government,” Putin said.
Speaking further about accession to the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, Putin said the member states supported Armenia’s and Kyrgyzstan’s bids to join the bloc. He added that a special working group had been formed to work out a road map for their integration.
Ukraine’s government on September 18 approved a draft European Union association agreement, moving the country one step closer to the final signing of such an agreement, slated for November.
Moscow has been increasingly pressuring Kiev to join the Moscow-led Customs Union, which would keep Ukraine under Russia’s sphere of influence. Although Ukraine has observer status in this bloc, it has clearly indicated that it will not seek full membership.