Ukraine elections 'a step backwards'
Elections in the Ukraine failed to bring the country closer to forming an association with the EU and may even have set the process back the European Parliament heard today.
MEPs said Ukraine must prove its commitment to genuine democracy before any such agreement can be signed.
However in a resolution adopted today the Parliament confirmed the EU commitment to signing the association agreement, possibly even in time for the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius in November 2013.
But the debate heard the 2012 elections in Ukraine had failed to meet international standards and were "a step backwards" compared to previous elections.
The parliament heard there had been reports of intimidation of candidates and electoral staff, lack of balanced media coverage and irregularities in the vote count.
MEPs called on the Ukraine government to address the inconclusive results in some electoral districts and the shortcomings of the electoral law and urged it to find, together with the EP’s envoys Aleksander Kwasniewski and Pat Cox, a solution to the Tymoshenko case.
The resolution also called on the Ukrainian parliament to reject Bill 8711, which was adopted recently at first reading and limits freedom
of expression and assembly to support the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
MEPs voiced concerns about the rising nationalistic sentiment in Ukraine which led to the election of the "Svoboda" party to the parliament. They said racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the EU’s fundamental values and principles.
Ukraine's parliament today approved Mykola Azarov, President Viktor Yanukovich's ally, as prime minister, after the ruling Party of the Regions and its allies mustered a solid majority despite raucous protests from the opposition.
Mr Azarov, 64, who has served as prime minister since Mr Yanukovich became president in February 2010, was voted in for a second term in office by 252 votes from the 450-seat chamber.
The vote on Mr Azarov's nomination was an early test of the support that Yanukovich, who is expected to bid for a second term as president in 2015, commands in the new chamber.
But it culminated a day of rowdy scenes in parliament and protests from a reinvigorated opposition which spoke out against another term for Mr Azarov. It says his government has reneged on promises to raise living standards.
Earlier, deputies wrestled with each other in a mass of bodies around the main rostrum as opposition parties tried physically to block a vote on the regions' candidate for speaker.
The regions' majority in support of Azarov was due in part - as with the vote in support of Volodymyr Rybak as speaker - to backing from the Regions' traditional communist allies.
Additional reporting Reuters