Ms Tymoshenko, a leader of the Orange Revolution leader, urged the EU to help defend democracy.

“It’s symbolically important that this summit occurs on the anniversary of the Orange Revolution. Ukraine’s democracy is at risk again,” she told the Financial Times.

Experts say EU officials face a difficult balancing act. On the one hand, they will stress that further engagement hangs on Kiev’s democratic credentials.

On the other, EU officials will encourage engagement in trade and energy, fearing that isolation could push Mr Yanukovich closer to Russia. It is a fear that opposition figures say Mr Yanukovich is eager to exploit for his personal political gain.

Tomas Valasek, director of foreign policy and defence at London’s Centre for European Reform, said that under Mr Yanukovich Ukraine is “turning inwards and becoming increasingly authoritarian”.

“The EU should discourage Mr Yanukovich from building a one-party system, while supporting economic and energy reforms,” he added.

Ms Tymoshenko said “conditions need to be applied to bilateral agreements” requiring Ukraine to uphold democracy. “Europe’s voice needs to be heard loudly and clearly.”

Ms Tymoshenko also took aim at the Party of European Socialists, which inked a co-operation agreement this autumn with Mr Yanukovich’s big business-backed Party of Regions. She accused Europe’s socialist parties of betraying EU principles in blocking a European Parliament resolution critical of last month’s local elections.

“The Party of Regions ... has found an unusual ally in the Socialist group in the European parliament, which has twice postponed a resolution criticising Ukraine’s democratic regression,” Ms Tymoshenko said.

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