Ukraine has lost its chance to create a free trade zone with the European Union after it signed a free trade deal with the former Soviet republics on Tuesday, Ukraine's former President Viktor Yushchenko said on Wednesday.
"The St. Petersburg accords block our integration into the European trade space," Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party quoted him as saying.
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin announced late on Tuesday in St.Petersburg that the majority of the CIS countries had agreed to set up a free trade regime after two decades of talks. The agreement cancels export and import duties on commodities but still stipulates some exemptions, which will be lifted in the near future.
The agreement was signed by all the CIS states except Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, which will consider signing the agreement by the end of the year.
Yushchenko said he regretted that Ukraine had made this step at a time when it was close to creating a free trade zone with the European Union.
Despite the free trade deal with the CIS countries, a loose association of former Soviet republics, except the Baltic states, Ukraine is willing to go ahead with its plans to create a free trade zone with the EU and several other countries, Ukraine's Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said earlier on Wednesday.
Kiev hoped to conclude free trade talks with the EU by the end of 2011. The free trade provision is expected to become a part of an association agreement with the EU. However, the EU may block the agreement after Ukraine's ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko was sentenced to seven years in prison in October for abusing her authority by signing a 2009 gas deal with Russia.
Yushchenko said Ukraine would hardly be allowed to expand its presence on the Russian market while the former Soviet republic had great potential for expanding its presence on the European market from the current 3-4 percent.