Russian President Vladimir Putin has called on European leaders to stop their "sharp words" on Ukraine for the country’s refusal to sign a trade agreement with the European Union, according to Press TV portal.
"I ask our friends in Brussels to hold back on the sharp words," Putin said in Rome on Tuesday, after meeting Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta, adding, "Do we have to choke entire sectors of our economy for them to like us?"
He said an EU free trade deal with Ukraine means that European goods can reach the Russian market with almost no tariffs, because there is a free trade pact between Russia and Ukraine.
"Ukraine has to take this decision itself," Putin added, noting, "The choice of whom to sign a free trade agreement with is Ukraine's sovereign choice and we will respect the decision, whatever it is."
The Russian president also stated that Ukraine and Ukrainian companies owed Russia over $30 billion (22 billion euros).
On November 21, Ukraine announced that it would suspend the deal with the EU and revive talks on an agreement with Russia.
According to a decree issued by the Ukrainian prime minister’s office, the decision was made to “ensure the national security of Ukraine” after considering the effects of trade with Russia. It also spoke of the need to “restore lost trade volumes with the Russian Federation.”
The EU has expressed disappointment over the decision, saying the agreement would have attracted foreign investments to the country.