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Ukrainian President Poroshenko Requests Time on EU Deal

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The winner of Sunday's presidential election in Ukraine has told senior European Union leaders he wants some time before committing to a major economic and political deal with the bloc, according to more than a half-dozen officials briefed on conversations, reports.

Officials say they have seen no evidence that incoming Ukrainian president-elect Petro Poroshenko is wavering on the agreement, and they still expect him to wrap it up over the next couple of months. But they say the billionaire chocolate maker has sent the message that he will approach the Europeans when he is ready.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Poroshenko said the incoming president will discuss the timing of the signing of the accord after he meets some European leaders late next week in Poland.

The bilateral deal would transform Ukraine's ties with the EU and has been at the center of the country's political crisis for most of the past year. But Russian President Vladimir Putin bitterly opposes the accords, and Moscow has threatened economic retaliation against the former Soviet countries that sign deals with the EU.

Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to abandon the agreement in November sparked protests that eventually toppled his government in Feburary.

The EU had said it stands ready to sign the complete agreement after Ukraine's presidential election. According to provisional results, Mr. Poroshenko received some 57% of the vote in Sunday's election, meaning he almost certainly clinched victory in the first round.

On Monday, Mr. Poroshenko spoke separately to the EU's top two officials: European Commission President José Manuel Barroso and Herman Van Rompuy, who heads the European Council, which represents member states.

On Monday evening, Mr. Van Rompuy's chief of staff, Didier Seeuws, told a meeting of senior member-state officials that Mr. Poroshenko had asked for a little more time, according to a number of people briefed on discussions. The diplomats said Mr. Seeuws explained that the incoming president had told Mr. Van Rompuy that he would come back to them and let them know when the situation was right.

According to the diplomats, Mr. Seeuws said that Mr. Poroshenko had requested that a statement on Ukraine issued Tuesday night after a summit of EU heads of government exclude any reference to the EU-Ukraine accord. Neither the drafts of the statement nor the final version mentioned it.

Two aides briefed on Mr. Barroso's conversation with Mr. Poroshenko on Monday told The Wall Street Journal that Mr. Poroshenko had signaled he still planned to sign the accord, but didn't offer a date for doing so.

In March, the bloc signed the political chapters of the accord with Ukraine but held off finalizing the crucial trade and economic chapters.

The EU's enlargement chief said last week the agreement could be signed June 27—the same date European governments are due to sign similar agreements with Georgia and Moldova. On Tuesday, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said signing the accord is "still on our agenda for June."

A number of the diplomats stressed that a June signature was still possible but others said more time could be needed.

"It might be a question of a few more weeks," said one senior EU diplomat.

Separately, several EU diplomats said French President François Hollande plans to invite Mr. Poroshenko to the commemorations of the Normandy landings in World War II next month. Mr. Putin also plans to attend the D-day commemorations.

June 6 will mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings, in which allied forces begin to push German forces back on the western front.

Mr. Poroshenko was also quoted as vowing to stamp out a simmering rebellion by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine's east. Dozens of rebels have been killed in heavy fighting in the eastern industrial capital of Donetsk since the election.

"We will end this terror," Mr. Poroshenko told Germany's Bild Zeitung in an interview published Wednesday. "There is a real war being waged against our country."

May 30 2014, 12:21

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