Ukraine says it will push towards EU despite rejection by Dutch voters

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko gestures during a news conference in Kiev, Ukraine, January 14, 2016. Picture taken January 14, 2016. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich/Files (Reuters)

By Elaine Lies TOKYO (Reuters) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday his country will continue moving towards the European Union despite a resounding rejection by Dutch voters of a treaty on closer ties between the European body and Ukraine. The broad political, trade and defence treaty is already provisionally in place but has to be ratified by all 28 EU member states for every part of it to have full legal force. The Netherlands was the only country that had not done so. Many Ukrainian politicians feel their country deserves the treaty and are keen to show they have made progress in aligning their country with EU standards since the 2014 uprising that toppled pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich. Dutch leaders campaigning for the treaty had said voting against it would also hand a symbolic victory to Russian President Vladimir Putin. "Under any circumstances we will continue to implement the association agreement with the European Union including a deep and comprehensive free trade agreement," Poroshenko told reporters in Tokyo. "We will continue our movement towards the European Union." Poroshenko downplayed the importance of the referendum, which is non-binding, but said Ukraine should "take it into consideration" and added that they were awaiting a decision by the government and parliament of the Netherlands. The Dutch government said on Wednesday that it could not ignore the vote but that it may take weeks to decide how to respond. The referendum was seen as a test of sentiment towards Brussels ahead of Britain's June Brexit vote and could also be a boost for Russia. Poroshenko also repeated his denial that he put his assets in an offshore trust to minimise taxes, after the country's fiscal service said it was looking into documents relating to his offshore assets that were included in the "Panama Papers." (Reporting by Elaine Lies; Editing by Chang-Ran Kim and Nick Macfie)