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EU chides Russia, Moscow claims "win"

The European Union's Vilnius summit has ended with top EU officials accusing Russia of blocking what would have been a key deal with Ukraine. Russian state media claim a "win" for Russia.

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Ukraine still holding out on EU deal

Georgia and Moldova signed association agreements with EU on Friday, but a similar deal to foster EU-Ukrainian ties failed to emerge. EU Council President Hermann Van Rompuy said the 28-nation bloc he represented would "not give in" to Russia.

Speaking at a closing news conference of the summit between the EU and its eastern neighbors in the Lithuanian capital, Rompuy said a future deal with Ukraine was "still on the table."

"We will not give in to external pressure, not the least from Russia," he said. "We hope that sooner or later Ukraine will be ready."

Yanukovych - 'issues'

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (pictured above) left the summit saying Ukraine could "not move forward" until it had solved "problematic issues."

As one of several eastern European guests, he had argued that Ukraine's shelving last week of the plan to sign up with the EU stemmed from potential Russian trade penalties that far outweighed the funds offered by the EU.

He returns to Kyiv where 10,000 pro-European demonstrators have demanded in recent days that Ukraine sign the intended deal.

Its terms would have included the EU's demand that Ukrainian authorities release from prison opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko, a rival of Yanukovych.

'Win' for Putin?

Much of Russia's state media and some Moscow analysts proclaimed a "win" for Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"In the past few weeks, this turned into a zero-sum game between Russia and the European Union," said Council on Foreign and Defence Policy director Fyodor Lukyanov. "Tactically, this was a clear Russian win."

In London, Tim Ash, chief emerging-markets economist at Standard Bank said Yanukovych "appears to have got very little from Vilnius, and now risks going back to Kyiv empty-handed" ahead of talks with Russia next week.

Lithuania encourages Ukrainians

EU summit host, Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaite, referred to her country's break from Soviet rule two decades ago and urged Ukrainians "not to give in."

"The Ukrainian leadership came with very clear decision not to sign," she added.

'We are Europeans'

Signing Moldova's deal with the EU Friday, Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca said his small nation's association agreement would "surely bring my country one day into the EU."

Speaking to EU leaders on Thursday evening, Georgian President Giorgi Margvelashvili struck a similar tone.

"We Georgians know that we are Europeans," Margvelashvili said.

"But for historical and geopolitical reasons, we were not able to take part in the initial phases of European integration."

Praise from Merkel

German Chancellor Angela Merkel praised Georgia and Moldova for taking what she described as "a very brave step," in view of the diplomatic pressure.

French President Francois Hollande rejected the idea of providing increased aid to Ukraine.

"You can't, as the Ukrainian president would like it ... ask that we pay for Ukraine to enter this association agreement. We don't pay," Hollande said.

ipj/se (AFP, AP, dpa)

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