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Ashton gets association assurances from Kiev

  |   Dec. 11, 2013 at 12:42 PM
KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 11 (UPI) -- EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Wednesday she had assurances from Kiev that Ukraine remained interested in signing an association agreement.

Ashton was quoted as saying Wednesday from Kiev she expected a resumption of talks would require "considerable effort" but she had assurances from Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych an association agreement was still on the table.

"The president assured me that he wants to sign an association agreement," she was quoted by the National News Agency of Ukraine as saying.

A November decision by the Yanukovych administration to suspend efforts to sign free trade and association agreements with the European Union sparked mass protests in Ukraine. The Ukrainian government said the decision was made in order to protect its economic interests with Russia.

Ashton issued a statement late Tuesday expressing concern over a Ukrainian decision to send police to a city center in Ukraine to break up ongoing protests.

"The authorities did not need to act under the coverage of night to engage with society by using force," she said. "Dialogue with political forces and society and the use of arguments is always better than the argument of force."

Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov defended the police presence to lawmakers Wednesday.

"Take it easy," he said. "This is only about the clearing of roads to ensure the capital's trouble-free functioning."

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