President Petro Poroshenko on Thursday ordered a temporary closure of Ukraine’s porous border with Russia and voiced plans to apply for EU membership in 2020 as part of his ex-Soviet country’s Westward shift.
A senior Ukrainian security source told AFP that the border security measures was designed to halt the alleged smuggling of weapons into the separatist east and would enter into force “soon”.
The two steps underscore the extent of Kiev’s alienation from its historic master and deal a further blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s dream of folding Ukraine into a Kremlin-led alliance that could rival NATO and the European Union.
The plunge in the neighbours’ relations comes in the wake of the February ouster in Kiev of a Moscow-backed leader and the Kremlin’s subsequent annexation of Crimea and alleged backing of a bloody pro-Russian revolt.
But the announcements also threaten to further devastate Ukraine’s imploding economy by halting trade between the mutually dependent nations and increasing the likelihood of Russia adopting retaliatory steps.
A decree published on the presidential website ordered the government “to settle… the issue of temporarily closing checkpoints on Ukraine’s state border with the Russian Federation to cars, sea and pedestrian traffic.”
It added that the 2,000-kilometre (1,200-mile) land frontier with Ukraine’s giant northeastern neighbour may be closed “to other forms of traffic” if necessary.
The presidency said Poroshenko also told a meeting of judges that Ukraine would make a formal EU membership bid in 2020 that was made possible by this year’s signing of a landmark political and economic association pact.
Poroshenko said his “Strategy 2020″ plan “envisions 60 reforms and social programmes whose adoption will prepare Ukraine to apply for membership in the European Union in six years,” his press service said.
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