Putin, EU leaders set to spar over Ukraine

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EU leaders will trade blows with Russian president Vladimir Putin over Moscow’s perceived interference in Ukraine when they meet in Brussels on Tuesday.

It comes just over two months after President Putin convinced his Ukrainian counterpart, Viktor Yanukovich, to back out of a trade deal with the EU at a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

“The issue of Ukraine will be among those discussed. Events in our neighbourhood prompted the EU leaders – instead of having a summit in the type of business-as-usual (way)- to rather focus on a strategic debate with the Russian president,” said Maja Kocijanic, a spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.

Putin outmaneuvered EU officials by offering Yanukovich 11 billion euros in loans, credits and gas discounts to bail out Ukraine’s economy.

Russian ambassador to EU Vladimir Chizhov told euronews: “By my observation, the European Union has taken with a lot sensitivity the results of the Vilnius summit, including the decision taken by the Ukrainian leadership to postpone the signing of the Association agreement. I don’t see a necessity to make it a subject of discussion at our summit.”

Putin wants to avoid any public criticism of the EU ahead of the forthcoming Sochi Olympics.

He’s made concessions, such as releasing activists Pussy Riot, in a bid to stave off the threat of a boycott.

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