Ukraine's Parliament has rejected a law that would allow jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko to be released for medical treatment in Germany, jeopardising a breakthrough trade deal with the European Union.
Tymoshenko, 52, is serving a seven-year prison sentence for abuse of office, after she was convicted of brokering a gas deal with Russia which inflated gas prices.
All six draft laws to allow the former prime minister's release were rejected by the Verkhovna Rada after President Viktor Yanukovych's ruling Regions Party failed to support the bills.
The bills received support from 200 of the 450 MPs in parliament, short of the 226 votes needed for the legislation to be passed, with many pro-Yanukovich MPs abstaining.
Opposition lawmakers shouted "shame" as the result was announced.
"It is President Viktor Yanukovych who is personally blocking Ukraine's movement toward the European Union," opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk told parliament in a speech after the vote failed.
The free trade and cooperation agreement is scheduled to be signed at a summit on 29 November and would shift the former Soviet republic's foreign policy westwards, away from Russian influence.
The pressure exerted on Kiev by Russia, which has a symbiotic business relationship with Ukraine, not to sign the deal may have been a crucial factor.
The release of Tymoshenko was made an essential condition for any agreement between Ukraine and the EU, and Ukraine's refusal to free her before the summit is likely to threaten the compact.
She has been moved to a prison hospital due to back pain and Germany had offered to give her treatment in Berlin.
The former Ukrainian leader was marginally defeated by Yanukovich in the 2010 election. The current president was key to any deal being passed in parliament but has stalled over her release.
It is believed that Yanukovich fears Tymoshenko's political resurrection if she were to be released, damaging his hopes of re-election in 2015.