This November, Ukraine and the European Union have plans to sign a free-trade and political association agreement. Russia, however, seeks instead to lure Kiev into a Moscow-led economic union. This past weekend, Russia has upped the pressure it exhibited on the Ukraine over the summer by banning the products of a major confectionary maker in Russia.  This banning has temporarily halted some Ukrainian imports at its border, dealing a painful blow to Ukrainian business.

On Saturday, September 20, 2013, a top Russian official warned Ukraine against signing the landmark trade and cooperation agreement with the European Union, saying Moscow would retaliate with trade restrictions that could push this ex-Soviet republic toward default. Earlier that week, at a conference in the Black Sea city of Yalta, Russian presidential adviser Sergei Glazyev dismissed the benefits of the planned free-trade deal between the EU and Ukraine as “mythology.” He warned that the tariffs and trade checks that Russia would impose after the deal could cost Ukraine billions of dollars and result in a default. Russians say they fear its market could be flooded by competitive EU goods entering Ukraine free of import duties and being re-exported across the long border with Russia.

In response, European Union officials have urged Kiev to implement the key reforms and sign the EU deal in November, saying Ukraine belongs with the West. The key obstacle to the deal is the incarceration of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whose verdict the West has condemned as politically motivated. Western governments are pressing hard for her release.