EU and Ukraine pledge to deepen relations, call on Russia to respect peace deal

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By Alice Tidey  & Ana Lazaro
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L) and EU Council President Charles Michel in Brussels, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy (L) and EU Council President Charles Michel in Brussels, Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2020.   -  Copyright  Stephanie Lecocq/Pool Photo via AP

The European Union and Ukraine pledged on Tuesday to deepen their relations with the bloc calling on Russia to respect the peace agreement over Crimea.

"The EU is — and will remain — Ukraine's biggest and most reliable partner," European Council president Charles Michel said after talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Brussels.

"And we want to deepen ou relationship with Ukraine even further," he added.

Today's meeting resulted in three new financial agreements on support to the east of Ukraine, civil society and climate worth €60 million. The EU has mobilised more than €15 billion in grants and loans to assist Ukraine in its reform efforts since 2014.

Michel and the bloc's top diplomat, Josep Borrell, both praised electoral, land and banking reforms already undertaken by Kyiv under Zelenskyy.

"The results speak for themselves," Borrell told reporters. "Bilateral trade has increased by no less than 65 per cent in the last four years. There are still many opportunities to be exploited in our Association Agreement"

But the EU officials also stressed that more needs to be done, especially with regards to rule of law, and the fight against corruption and vested interests.

"We will continue supporting (Ukraine) because your progress will be our progress and your security will be our security.," Borrell said.

The bloc also reaffirmed that it will continue "to support Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity" and condemned, once more, the "illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula."

Michel said that sanctions against Russia over the annexation have been extended through 2021.

"President Zelenskyy is working hard to resolve the conflict and has made significant steps. We call on Russia to reciprocate," he went on, also reiterating the bloc's support for the full implementation fo the Minsk Agreements.

The peace deal, brokered by Germany and France in 2015, has so far yielded limited results with fighting still taking place in eastern Ukraine between the country's security forces and Russian-backed separatists.