KIEV, December 1 (RIA Novosti) – Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said Sunday his country will continue efforts towards European integration but insisted that Kiev should be accepted as an equal partner.
“I will do everything possible to advance the process of Ukraine’s rapprochement with the European Union, but without any serious losses for this country’s economy or deterioration of the citizens’ living standards,” Yanukovych said in a statement.
“We must be only guided by national interests and be responsible for our own future. We should defend [Ukraine] on the political map of Europe and the world as a great and absolutely independent state,” the statement published by the official Ukrinform news agency said.
Yanukovych's press service was unable to publish the statement on the president’s website which went out of service Sunday, as well as other Ukrainian government websites, after suspected hacking in response to a violent crackdown on protesters in downtown Kiev.
Ukraine has made its geopolitical choice, Yanukovych said. "We are a European nation, and our path is determined historically. At the same time, my deepest feeling is that [Ukraine] should integrate into the community of European nations as an equal partner, which should be respected and taken into account.”
European Union leaders said Friday that a deal to let Ukraine boost economic ties with Europe is still on offer after the former Soviet nation backed away from signing at a landmark summit in Vilnius.
Kiev’s surprise decision last week to halt preparations for association agreements with the EU caused dismay among European officials, and has sparked mass street demonstrations inside Ukraine.