MOSCOW, September 4 (Itar-Tass) - President Vladimir Putin said he would respect Ukraine’s choice in favour of the European Union.
However, Putin said the Ukrainian economy could face big problems.
In an interview with Russia’s state Channel 1 television and The Associated Press, Putin said: “As for integration processes, we should respect Ukraine.”
“If Ukraine considers a free trade zone agreement with the EU expedient, then so be it. But we think that Ukraine and we can face certain problems,” Putin said.
“Then Ukraine assumes additional obligations to ease customs barriers. Firstly, for a certain period Ukraine clears up import customs duties. Secondly, it will introduce European standards. When duties are cleared up foreign goods can emerge on the Ukrainian market. And what should be done with domestic producers?” Putin said.
“We fear that they will be supplied to our market, to the Customs Union market and to the market of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus. But this will create problems for our economy,” he explained.
Commenting on new technical standards, the president said, “This means that Ukrainian enterprises should produce all - maybe, an elevator, a car, a shirt, watches etc. All goods should respond to European standards. They are good, but they are very tough to make enterprises to work in compliance with these regulations. Multi-billion investments are indispensable.”
“I doubt this can be done in an instant. While this is done many enterprises will go into bankruptcy. Ukrainian goods will go to our market and we’re forced to close our enterprises,” the president said.
“In my view, Russia and Ukraine have evident competitive advantages: we have a common transport infrastructure, common energy. Our cooperation is deep. We have the common language.” “These are big advantages and they disappear [if Ukraine signs the agreement with the EU],” Putin said.
“I can hardly imagine how Ukraine’s space and missile system will develop. It is rather considerable. I can’t imagine its development without Russia. Our helicopters are equipped with Ukrainian engines. What should be done? How will the industry develop?” Putin said.
“Thus, the point is not what we want and what we don’t want. We’re holding talks with the European Union. We think that it is necessary to conclude a new basic agreement on a free trade zone,” he said.
“You know our European partners very well and long ago. They are good fellows. You can take German beer and schnaps, and a glass of French or Italian wine with them. When they sit down for the talks these are very hard and pragmatic people. It is very difficult to come to agreement with them,” Putin said.
“If we [Russia and Ukraine] worked out any principles within the common economic space, it will be difficult for Europeans to talk with us (Russia - Ukraine - Kazakhstan - Belarus) than one by one,” the president said.
“Let’s see what choice the Ukrainian leaders make. For sure, whatever choice Ukraine makes we’ll respect it and continue bilateral relations. The point is that how we’ll work and what measures we should take to protect our own interests,” Putin said.
In addition, he said: “Whatever choice Ukraine makes we’ll meet anywhere because we’re at one. So it be how nationalists of both countries [there are nationalists in Ukraine and in Russia].”
“Our historical roots are common. Our religion is common and our faith is common. Our culture, traditions and mentality are common. Of course, every country has its particularities. Besides, the Ukrainian culture, the Ukrainian language, dances and music are wonderful. I admire them,” Putin said.
During the Civil War, “the Red Army and the White Army fought up to the last ditch. Millions of people died. But they’ve never sought to separate Ukraine. The Red Army and the White Army backed the integrity of the Russian state”, Putin said.
“Only after the reunification Ukraine started developing. Ukraine turned into a big European state by receiving additional territories owing to Russia, certain areas in the west. The Soviet Union presented these territories to Ukraine. Colossal investments were made in the infrastructure, the industrial development etc,” Putin said.
“Now it is necessary to take into account the realities under which most Ukrainians value the independence. This should be accepted and respected. Only when mutually interests are respected common issues may be resolved,” Putin said.