President Vladimir Putin with President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev (l) and President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko before a meeting of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council. Turkey is interested in joining the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and India also wants closer ties with the organization, President Vladimir Putin said at the EurAsian Economic Community summit in Minsk on Thursday.
But some political analysts saw the summit in Minsk, which for the first time gathered all the state leaders of the former CIS countries, as the last opportunity for Putin to convince his Ukrainian counterpart Victor Yanukovych that joining the Customs Union is a better idea than integrating with Europe.
This view was partly fueled by Putin's presidential aide Yury Ushakov, who said earlier this week that Vladimir Putin and Victor Yanukovych would discuss Ukraine's plans to associate with the European Union at the summit.
Earlier this year Ukraine said it was ready to conclude a landmark agreement on trade association with the EU, planned to be signed at the Eastern Partnership summit in Lithuania next month.
Russia has made every possible attempt to stop that from happening, taking measures ranging from offers of a discount on gas prices to a temporary ban on Ukrainian imports.
But a Ukraine government source said Yanukovych was driven more by his own political agenda than the economic interests of the country.
Power is what Yanukovych is really after, a source in the Ukrainian government told The Moscow Times. The source asked to remain anonymous because he did not have permission to talk to the press.
And integration with the EU will get him much needed support in the upcoming presidential elections in 2015, he added.
Ukraine is split between a pro-Russian and pro-European electorate. According to the source, with the EU agreement there is a clear goal to get people's votes from central and western parts of the country, which are looking towards Europe.
"This scenario may lead to a loss of support from other, pro-Russian areas of the country, but the problem could be dealt with administrative levers by strangling rival political movements there," the source in the government said.