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Ukraine says Russia trade tensions over

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Ukraine said Tuesday it had resolved a brief trade row with Russia that came amid moves by the ex-Soviet state to strike a closer partnership with the European Union.

Russia last week began subjecting all Ukrainian imports to rigorous checks that could force Kiev to join a Moscow-led free trade union championed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

A top aide to Putin said the restrictions were imposed as a warning ahead of Kiev's expected signature in November of a free trade and political association agreement with Brussels.

The dispute -- one of the most serious since the days Russia cut off Ukraine's natural gas supplies in 2006 and 2009 -- prompted top Ukrainian negotiators from several government ministries to descend on Moscow on Monday.

The Ukranian Ministry of Levies and Revenues said Tuesday it had received the Russian Federal Customs Service's assurance that the extra checks had been called off.

"In the course of the negotiations, the Russian side assured us that as of today, the additional customs control procedures are no longer applied to Ukrainian goods," the Interfax-Ukraine quoted the Ministry of Levies and Revenues as saying.

"The goods of Ukrainian enterprises are crossing the border normally," the ministry said. "The acuteness of the problem has been relieved."

There was no immediate confirmation of the decision from either Russia's Federal Customs Service or other senior Moscow officials.

Moscow argues that a deal between Kiev and Brussels could result in a flood of cheap EU goods into Russia thanks to the duty privileges now enjoyed by Ukraine.

But Russia's move prompted a vocal outcry in Ukraine from business leaders and pro-European officials who now argue for even tighter cooperation with Brussels.

Russian trade restrictions could deliver a potentially debilitating blow to the Ukrainian economy, whose foreign currency reserves are dwindling from attempts to shore up the local currency.

Russia remains Ukraine's closest trade partner, accounting for nearly a quarter of its total exports.

A top Kiev business lobby has claimed that Ukraine could lose up to $2.5 billion (1.9 billion euros) in the second half of 2013 because of an effective halt in the import of Ukrainian goods by Russia.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130820/ukraine-says-russia-trade-tensions-over