Nov 29 - Ukraine's President Yanukovich and EU leaders fail to salvage an ambitious free-trade pact despite a warning that Ukraine is risking its future by turning towards its powerful neighbour, Russia - a move which is continuing to stir protests in Kiev. Ivor Bennett reports.
It looked like a greeting of old friends - handshakes, smiles, even a photo. For now though, this is as close as the EU will get to Ukraine. The country's President Viktor Yanukovich turned his back on the bloc's last-minute attempts to rescue their free trade deal at the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius. Was it pressure from Russia? It's a question no one got to ask as Ukraine's leader dodged reporters on his way in. Despite the snub, EU leaders say the door's still open. French President Francois Hollande. (SOUNDBITE) (French) FRENCH PRESIDENT FRANCOIS HOLLANDE SAYING: "The door will also be open for them, on the condition that they themselves want it. It's not up to Europeans to make the decision for the Ukrainians." Deals were still signed at the summit, with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova. But the main goal was always Ukraine - the bloc offering a landmark agreement to reel in Europe's second largest country. Instead of turning west though, Ukraine's gone east - reviving talks with Russia on a Customs Union of old Soviet allies. Yanukovich hasn't ruled out an EU deal in the future. But he said the financial aid package would need to be bigger, calling the EU's earlier offer of 600 million euros humiliating. The decision to walk away from the deal has sparked days of protests in Kiev. And the tensions are now beginning to boil over. But demonstrators are showing no sign of backing down. (SOUNDBITE) (Ukrainian) PROTESTER FROM LVIV, DZVINKA, SAYING: "We will stay until the moment that the authorities change. I don't want to be with Russia with the Customs Union. I want my children to live in a European country." Not everyone agrees though. Barely a kilometre away, these people are rallying in favour of the President, backing his decision to postpone the deal. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) YANUKOVICH SUPPORTER GEORGY BONDAREV FROM DONBASS, SAYING: "We are not against the signing of an association with the European Union, but not at any price. The right moment has not come yet - there is a right time for everything." Ultimately, it seems they know their future lies with Europe. But Ukraine's links with Russia go back a long way, and for now at least, that's more important.