The EU welcomed Ukraine into the Western fold on Friday, signing the political provisions of a landmark accord.
European Union leaders agreed sanctions against top Russian politicians and stepped up efforts to cut the bloc’s debilitating energy dependence on Russia.
Signing the Association Accord “symbolises the importance both sides attach to this relationship... and the joint will to take it further,” EU president Hermann Van Rompuy told Ukraine interim premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The EU was offering Ukraine its “steadfast support,” Mr. Van Rompuy said, promising help to get the country’s struggling economy back on track.
“We are sure that together we will succeed,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said after the European Union’s 28 heads of state and government signed the document.
After long talks in Brussels, EU leaders hit 12 more Russians with travel bans and asset freezes, bringing their list to 33. Among them was Russian Deputy Premier Dmitry Rogozin, who vehemently dismissed the measures. “All these sanctions aren’t worth a grain of sand of the Crimean land that returned to Russia,” Mr. Rogozin said in a tweet.
EU leaders also agreed on the need to fast-forward plans to cut the bloc’s energy dependency, notably on Russia which supplies more than a quarter of its natural gas, much of it in pipelines through Ukraine.
“Reducing our energy dependency, especially in relation to Russia, was a key topic” at the two-day summit, Mr. Van Rompuy said.
“If we don’t take action now, by 2035 we will be dependent for 80 percent of oil and gas,” he warned.
Many EU nations are heavily reliant on Russian energy and so the bloc is divided on how far it can go with economic sanctions.
For Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, which imports virtually no Russian gas, it is of case of "Russia needs Europe more than EU needs Russia."
Other countries such as Hungary or Bulgaria are much more dependent and so are less confident to impose full economic sanctions.