|Russian President Vladimir Putin, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (from L to R) attend a press conference after the 32nd EU-Russia summit at EU headquarters in Brussels, capital of Belgium, Jan 28, 2014. (Xinhua/Ye Pingfan)
by Rahul Venkit
BRUSSELS, Jan. 28 (Xinhua) -- European Union (EU) leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday sounded a reconciliatory note after the 32nd EU-Russia summit, calling for an end to violence in Ukraine.
Addressing a post-summit press conference hours after the resignation of Ukraine prime minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet, Putin told reporters Russia would not reconsider its energy and financial commitments to its neighbor no matter who came into power.
"The loan and the gradual reduction of gas prices were to support the people of Ukraine, not the government," he said.
Putin reiterated Moscow's position on Ukraine, saying foreign interference would not be helpful in solving the country's domestic issues.
The EU said it was closely monitoring developments in Ukraine. Its foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton travelled to Kiev shortly after attending the Brussels summit.
In a departure from rising political tensions between the EU and Russia -- believed to be part of the reason why the biannual summit was truncated to a couple of hours from an originally-planned two days -- EU leaders underlined that its Eastern Partnership initiative and the Russian-led Customs Unions could not only coexist but also benefit from each other.
"We need to change the perception that one region's gain is another region's pain. We in the European Union are against the mentality of block against block," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said.
"We believe the European Union and Russia have all to gain from a cooperative attitude," he added.
The EU's Eastern Partnership initiative is a comprehensive program of economic and political cooperation with six former Soviet republics, including Belarus and Ukraine.
In November, Ukraine walked away from an EU free trade and association pact, triggering protests in the country. Its government has been criticized for measures in dealing with the demonstrators.
President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, on Tuesday stated Eastern Partnership countries "could relate to each other," adding Russian companies were well-placed to benefit from the partnership.
Russia is already the EU's third most important trading partner after the U.S. and China. According to Eurostat, Russia accounted for 7 percent of total euro area exports (123.4 billion euros) and 12 percent of imports (215 billion euros) in 2012.
During their talks, Russia and EU leaders agreed on using 100 percent of the capacity of the OPAL gas pipeline to connect the Nord Stream pipeline (running from Russia to Germany) to the grid in Europe, Putin said.
The EU is said to rely on Russia for nearly 30 percent of its natural gas imports.
Putin was accompanied by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov who highlighted common bilateral challenges such as terrorism, Syria and and Iran.
The next EU-Russia summit is planned to take place in Sochi in June, on the eve of the G8 summit, viewed by observers as a positive sign.