Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovich [official website; BBC profile] stated on Tuesday at a televised round-table discussion that a working group is likely to return to Brussels to continue talks on the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement [EU backgrounder], a planned trade pact with the EU. Yanukovich's earlier decision to abandon the trade pact was reportedly influenced by Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian; JURIST news archive], who threatened trade sanctions against Ukraine, should the Ukraine back the EU's trade plan. The announcement of the abandoned trade pact led to ongoing protests in Kiev [JURIST report], where more than 100,000 protestors have gathered to demand the government's resignation [BBC report]. Despite stating the probability of resuming trade pact discussions, Yanukovich continued to stress the importance of strengthening ties with Russia. Additionally, most likely in an attempt to calm protestors, Yanukovich stated that he has requested the release of a number of protestors who were previously detained.
This is the latest discussion regarding a number of potential and much-needed economic and political reforms by the Ukrainian government. Ukraine's imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko announced [JURIST report] in November that she would go on a hunger strike to show her support for demonstrators who have been protesting Ukraine's decision to abandon the planned EU trade pact. In September Yanukovych signed a law [JURIST report] to improve prison conditions and take one step closer to integration with the EU. This law was required to allow the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, a step by the Ukrainian government toward economic and political integration with the EU. In April AI called on the Ukrainian government to investigate police abuses [JURIST report] and strengthen mechanisms to hold police accountable for brutality and torture. AI alleged that reports of police abuse and torture had been previously widely ignored by the government.