VILNIUS, Lithuania — European Union leaders Friday revived Cold War rhetoric Friday, accusing Russia of bullying Ukraine into ditching a landmark deal so the former Soviet republic would stay locked in Moscow’s orbit.
Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign the deal at the last minute, acknowledging that Moscow had him cornered.
“I have been one-on-one with Russia for 31 / 2 years under very unequal conditions,” Yanukovych told German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a two-day summit here.
The agreement sought to improve bilateral trade, streamline industry rules and bring about key democratic reforms in Ukraine.
Yanukovych complained that the E.U. hadn’t offered enough in financial incentives to secure his signature. French President Francois Hollande ruled out more E.U. funds to sweeten the deal.
The bloc did, however, extend its geopolitical reach eastward during the summit by initialing agreements with Georgia and Moldova.
Russia had worked aggressively to derail the Ukraine deal by imposing painful trade sanctions and threatening its neighbor with giant gas bills.
Moscow had previously cut off gas supplies during bitter pricing disputes to leave Ukrainians freezing in the depth of winter. Now, it is offering Ukraine much-needed discounts for its natural gas in exchange for joining a Moscow-led Customs Union.
Yanukovych’s move sparked mass protests in the Ukrainian capital Friday on a scale not seen since the country’s 2004 Orange Revolution.