Ukraine Signs the EU Trade Deal That Triggered Violence in November

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed an historic free-trade agreement with the European Union today, bringing the country closer to the West and snubbing Russia. The deal is the same that former Ukranian President Viktor Yanuknovych refused to sign in November; his refusal triggered a change of government and months of turmoil within the country.

Since November, over 350 people have been killed in fighting between Kiev and pro-Russian rebels in the eastern region of Ukraine. There's currently a ceasefire, which is set to expire tonight. However, Poroshenko and rebel leader Alexander Borodai will likely agree on an extension.

Poroshenko was excited at the signing in Brussels. "What a great day!" he said. "Maybe the most important day for my country after independence." He also underlined Ukraine's hope to one day join the EU. It "would cost the European Union nothing," he said, "but would mean the world to my country."

From the Associated Press:

While Friday's signing marked a defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has threatened to cancel trade preferences for Ukraine, the Kremlin made no immediate move to punish its neighbor or the two other former Soviet republics that joined the pact, Moldova and Georgia.

Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Russia will take the necessary measures to protect its markets only when the agreement takes effect.

[Image via AP]