Viktor Yanukovych calls off Malta visit
Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych cancels state visit to Malta amid growing pressures over violent crackdown on Ukrainian opposition.
6 December 2013, 12:00am
International news agancy Reuters have reported that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych called off the state visit to Malta planned for Monday. The Maltese government confirmed that the visit was cancelled by the Ukrainian government.
The Ukrainian presidential website said in a statement on Friday that Yanukovych postponed the scheduled visit to Malta citing his need "to focus on domestic political issues."
MaltaToday has learnt that yesterday the Maltese government informed the Ukraine that Yanukovych would not have been granted the official honours reserved for visiting Presidents and statesmen by the Maltese government.
Meanwhile, in a meeting with Speaker Anglu Farrugia the Ukrainian ambassador to Malta, Yevhen Perelygin insisted that his country still intended to sign the trade deal with the EU.
He added that the Ukrainian government "accepted" the people's right to protest on anything it opposed, "this should be done in a peaceful and non-violent way."
Yanukovich, who finished a four-day visit to China on Friday and was reported to be heading for talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi, faces turmoil in Kiev over his government's suspension of a landmark trade pact with the European Union.
Yanukovich's visit to Malta was set to be the first in a EU member state since Ukraine froze the signing of a co-operation agreement with the European Union.
Last month, Yanukovych's government abruptly halted preparations to sign the key political and economic agreement with the EU and focus on ties with Russia instead. Russia has used strong economic pressure to derail the deal, unwilling to lose the former part of its empire to the West.
Massive rallies have continued in the Ukraine while the government warned of its capability of using force against protesters after the opposition lost a vote aimed at taking down the ruling party.
Prime Minister Mykola Azarov on Tuesday made it clear that the government would not shy away from preventing the rising demonstrations by force.
"We have extended our hand to you, but if we encounter a fist, I will be frank, we have enough force," he said.
The renewed protests came after the opposition lost an attempt on Tuesday to topple the government by parliamentary means when a vote of no-confidence failed by a sizable margin.
Opposition members shouted "shame" and "revolution" as pro-government lawmakers spoke, while opposition speakers drew boos and jeer.
The no-confidence measure received 40 votes shy of the majority needed.
Even if it had passed, President Viktor Yanukovych would have remained president, but the prime minister and Cabinet would have been ejected.
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