Press says Ukraine torn between EU and Russia

Former President of the European Parliament Patrick Cox, right, and former Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, watch a parliament session in Kiev, Ukraine Former European Parliament President Patrick Cox (R) and ex-Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski (L) are monitoring Ukraine's progress for the EU

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Newspapers believe Ukraine is playing for high stakes with Russia and the EU, after MPs failed to agree on a bill that would allow jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to leave the country.

Some liken the country to a lover torn between two suitors - the EU, which has made Ms Tymoshenko's release a condition for a key association agreement, and Russia, which wants Ukraine to join its own customs union.

EU monitors now say Ukraine must pass laws meeting EU conditions by next Tuesday, or the deal will not be signed at a summit in two weeks' time.

'Risky game'

Papers in Ukraine have mixed views on the chances of an agreement with the EU, as well as on its desirability.

The tabloid Vesti says that in Ukraine "sceptical sentiments were growing yesterday regarding the prospects for signing the association agreement with the EU".

Columnist Oles Buzyna goes further in the daily Segodnya. "Today it became finally clear to me that Ukraine's infamous association with the EU has kicked the bucket," he says. The columnist welcomes this, accusing the EU of being "maliciously willing to do away with Ukraine and what remains of its industry".

Start Quote

Europe must not allow an association with Ukraine for as long as Tymoshenko is in prison ”

End Quote Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

However, the daily Den believes Ukraine "will lose out" if the agreement is not signed. "In the event of failure, everybody - the Ukrainian authorities, opposition and the European side - will be to blame," it says.

The tabloid Segodnya quotes an aide to President Viktor Yanukovych, Dmytro Vydrin, as saying the agreement "will be signed anyway because there is a political will on the part of Euro-MPs and bureaucrats".

Meanwhile the pro-opposition daily Ukrayina Moloda believes Mr Yanukovych "has not fully abandoned the EU association as yet", but is playing "a risky game" in a bid to extract as many concessions as possible from both Brussels and Moscow.

'Trust' at stake

Russian newspapers see little chance of the EU-Ukraine agreement still going ahead.

Under the headline "Ukraine in no hurry", the Vedomosti business daily says the probability of signing the association agreement has plummeted from 90% just a week ago to under 50% after the Ukrainian president visited Moscow over the weekend.

Novyye Izvestiya agrees that "Ukraine is well on the way to scuppering the signing of the association agreement with the European Union". It notes that "the authorities have started saying that the country does not need the association with the EU at all".

Moskovskiy Komsomolets suggests that the Ukrainian authorities have deliberately "disrupted" the passing of European integration bills. However, it quotes Global Strategies Institute director Vadim Karasev as saying that the president has "not yet made a final decision".

The business daily Kommersant quotes pundits as warning that, as Mr Yanukovych continues to "manoeuvre" between the EU and Russia, he "may lose the trust of both".

'Giddy fiancee'

The Polish daily Rzeczpospolita offers an explanation for Ukraine's perceived reluctance to resolve the issue of Ms Tymoshenko's fate. "Experts say that the ruling Party of Regions and President Viktor Yanukovych are scared by the former prime minister's ability to influence the presidential election campaign in 2015," the paper says.

Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung believes that, "like a bride between two cavaliers", the Ukrainian president "is trying to play off Moscow and Brussels against each other". In this situation, the paper urges the EU to stay firm. "Europe must not allow an association with Ukraine for as long as Tymoshenko is in prison," the paper says.

Under the headline "Ukraine moves away from deal with EU", France's Le Figaro Magazine feels that "there is a strong wind in Kiev blowing eastwards". "Like a giddy fiancee who has been pretending for months she was about to announce her prompt marriage with Europe, Ukraine is now going back on her promise, deciding instead to flirt with Russia, a protective neighbour who does everything it can to sabotage this union," the magazine says.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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