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2040 GMT: Reuters leads the day with the headline “EU signs trade pact with Ukraine, ceasefire extended by 72 hours,” but beyond the EU association deal and a lot of broken promises, it’s hard to see where there has ever been a ceasefire on the ground. The last 48 hours have been characterized by an intensification in violence, and increasingly heated rhetoric. Voice of Russia, the Kremlin’s response to Voice of America, reports:
Russia has objected to an artillery attack from the Ukrainian side on a border Russian checkpoint on Saturday, blaming it on the Ukrainian military, and demanding Kiev to investigate it. The building of the Gukovo checkpoint in Rostov region was seriously damaged in the shelling, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement, posted on Facebook, reports Interfax.
There were refugees from Ukraine at the checkpoint during the incident, the ministry said, adding that none of them was hurt. Some of the shells hit nearby Russian villages, it said. “The Russian side expressed a resolute protest in connection with provocations of this kind from the Ukrainian side, which grossly violate fundamental principles of international law,” the ministry said. The attack was “one more link in the chain of violations of the ceasefire, declared by the president of Ukraine, and, in fact, undermine the dialogue that has began in Donetsk in an effort to settle the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine,” the statement said. “The Russian side demands the Ukrainian side put an end to provocations of this kind, carefully investigate what has happened, and strictly punish those who are guilty,” it said.
And as Reuters reports, Moscow is already firing back at the news that Ukraine has signed an association agreement with the EU:
EU officials say that, in diplomatic talks, Russia has threatened to withdraw the duty-free treatment that Ukraine currently benefits from as a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) free trade pact.
If Russia imposed customs duties, it would put at risk some of Ukraine’s exports, which mainly consist of base metals, grains, machinery, equipment and processed food. Ukraine sends 24 percent of its exports to Russia, worth $15 billion a year.
Moscow fears Ukraine may re-export EU products to Russia, avoiding duties that Russia imposes to protect its own output.
Meanwhile, the Russian energy giant Rosneft and British Petroleum (BP) have struck a $2 billion deal. Though the deal may alleviate some of Europe’s energy problems, it exposes the fact that while Rosneft’s CEO was named in sanctions over this crisis, Russian companies have avoided that pressure, and European companies that put money first help erode the power and threat of weak sanctions. See our Russian liveblog for more analysis.