Ukraine signs EU economic pact that first ignited crisis

Ukraine on Friday finalized a European Union trade agreement, the deal that led to the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovych and a Russia-fueled national crisis earlier this year.

President Petro Poreshenko, elected in May, called the agreement a huge step forward for the country. 

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"This is one of the most important days in the time since Ukraine won independence. We use this possibility to modernize the country," he said, according to reports. "But we need only one thing — peace and security."

The deal would allow free trade between Ukraine and the European Union and would require Ukraine to come inline with the group's product regulations, according to The Associated Press. Georgia and Moldova also signed agreements. 

Secretary of State John Kerry said it was an important step in the process of becoming "stronger, more vibrant democracies."

"The decision on the best path to security, prosperity, and a better future for their citizens is one that can and should be made by these sovereign nations, and by them alone," Kerry said. "We applaud the hard work and determination that has brought them to this point, and we will continue to stand with them as they work to implement key reforms."

Russia has opposed the deal, with President Vladimir Putin calling it a forced choice, imposed by the West, between greater cooperation with Russia or the EU. 

Yanukovych's unwillingness to sign the pact led to an uprising in the country earlier this year that eventually forced him to flee to Russia. 

Since then, turmoil has brewed in Ukraine as pro-Russian separatists have taken over a number of government buildings in Eastern Ukraine, which has a large population of ethnic Russians.

Earlier this year, the United States and European countries imposed a number of sanctions on Russian leaders. Russia annexed Crimea following the region’s vote to secede amid increased Russian troop presence there. 

Updated 10:20 a.m.

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