The European Union’s offer to sign a free trade and political association agreement with Ukraine remains on the table despite Kiev’s decision to seek closer ties with Russia, the EU’s top two officials said.

In a joint statement issued days before Ukraine was due to sign the EU free-trade agreement at a summit in Vilnius, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and European Council President Herman Van Rompuy said Ukraine had been subjected to external pressure to get it to change course.

“The European Union will not force Ukraine, or any other partner, to choose between the European Union or any other regional entity,” they said, adding that Russia had put unacceptable pressure on Kiev. “We therefore strongly disapprove of the Russian position and actions in this respect.”

The statement added that if Ukraine wanted to take advantage of the EU offer, it remained on the table ahead of the summit, set for November 28-29.

“The EU stands ready to be more open and more supportive to those who are willing to engage in reforms and modernisation.”

Russia has accused the EU of putting undue pressure on Ukraine to sign the deal, while EU officials have pointed to Russia’s threats to cut off Ukraine’s gas supplies and impose trade restrictions as excessive pressure from Moscow’s side. (Reuters)