Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the European Union of blackmail and pressure against Ukraine over its decision to suspend preparations for a trade pact that would have wrested the nation further from Moscow’s orbit.

The former Soviet republic abruptly spurned an historic alliance with its western neighbors, suspending an imminent trade pact with the EU and saying it would revive talks on a deal instead with its old Soviet master.

The decision came under fire from European leaders, the United States and Ukrainian opposition.

“We have heard threats from our European partners toward Ukraine, up to and including promoting the holding of mass protests,” Putin told a news conference after talks with Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

“This is pressure and this is blackmail. Whether the Ukraine and the Ukrainian leadership will give in to such blackmail will be clear only in the next few days.”

Ukraine’s jailed opposition leader, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, called on people to take to the streets and protest against the government’s decision not to sign the trade deal.

The EU has been trying to secure her release while at the same time negotiating the signing of an association agreement.

Now that the plans to sign this agreement have ended Tymoshenko’s fate is uncertain and she may face a prolonged stay in jail. (Reuters)