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EU accession a priority for Ukraine: Yanukovych

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(WARSAW) - Accession to the European Union remains a priority for Ukraine, the country's President Viktor Yanukovych said Monday, three days after initialing an association agreement with the 27-member bloc.

"Ukraine's integration into the European political, economic and judicial space, in other words its accession to the EU, is our priority," Yanukovych said in an interview published by the Polish daily DGP.

He said his country was "ready to proceed without delay to the phase of signing and ratifying the agreement" but regretted that the text did not comprise "a clear perspective of accession."

Yanukovych said the EU should also ease visa requirements for Ukrainians, given the "progress in the introduction of reforms and European standards" in his country.

"The establishment of a free trade zone should be accompanied by aid for a modernisation of the Ukrainian economy," he added.

Friday, the EU initialed an association agreement with Ukraine after months of tensions over the jailing of ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

The agreement, which includes an ambitious trade component, is part of EU efforts to keep the former Soviet state from straying too far into Russia's sphere of influence.

But the actual signing of the pact is unlikely to happen for months, or before Ukraine's legislative elections in October, as the EU remains concerned over Tymoshenko's fate and the state of democracy in the country.

EU relations with Ukraine

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