BERLIN, March 19 (Reuters) - Germany's cabinet has approved EU plans for closer political cooperation with Ukraine, a government source said, clearing the way for Chancellor Angela Merkel to sign part of a so-called association agreement at an EU summit later this week.
The 28-member bloc is expected to sign a more far-reaching trade accord with Ukraine later.
Pro-Russian Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich's decision last November not to sign the association agreement with the EU provoked months of street protests that led to his fleeing the country.
Since then, Russian forces have occupied Ukraine's Crimea region and President Vladimir Putin has signed a treaty making the region part of Russia after a weekend referendum.
Washington and the EU have condemned the move which has prompted the worst crisis in East-West ties since the Cold War.
The EU has split the signing of the association agreement into two parts with the economic and trade aspects to come after May presidential elections in Ukraine. The European Commission has already removed duties on a range of imported goods from Ukraine in an effort to help its economy. (Reporting by Andreas Rinke; Editing by Noah Barkin)