President Poroshenko says reforms will prepare Ukraine for 2020 EU membership bid
President says a ceasefire between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russia rebels is holding
He and Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely meet in the next three weeks, he says
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko outlined a program of social and economic reforms Thursday that he said are aimed at preparing his country to apply for EU membership in 2020.
Since he took office in June, Poroshenko has pursued a pro-European agenda despite opposition from Russia.
“This program foresees about 60 reforms and special programs that will allow Ukraine to prepare for submitting in six years a bid for membership of the European Union,” he said, according to national news agency Ukrinform.
Poroshenko also told reporters Thursday in Kiev that a nearly three-week-old ceasefire between Ukraine’s military and pro-Russia rebels in the country’s east is holding.
This, he said, was “the first day in many many weeks and months when Ukrainians have not had a single person killed, and not a single person wounded.”
Poroshenko said he expected to hold a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin within the next three weeks.
He did not specify the venue of the meeting, just saying that it would be held in Europe.
The ceasefire deal was agreed to following a phone conversation between the two leaders and negotiations between representatives of Kiev, Moscow and the pro-Russia rebels in Minsk, Belarus.
Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of arming and supporting the rebels and of sending Russian troops over the border to fight with them.
The Ukrainian Parliament and the European Union last week ratified a political and economic agreement that also includes free trade provisions, though they won’t come into force until the start of 2016.
Former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to drop the EU Association agreement late last year in favor of closer ties with Moscow triggered the popular unrest that led to his ouster in February, followed by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea region a month later and months of deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine.
At the same time, Poroshenko appealed to the U.S. Congress for greater support for his military, but the request was rebuffed. The United States has sent nonlethal assistance such as blankets and night vision goggles, but won’t provide lethal aid.
In his speech to the U.N. General Assembly Wednesday, President Barack Obama again promised that the United States and its allies would support Ukraine, while calling on Russia to follow “the path of diplomacy and peace.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov discussed the importance of a full and prompt implementation of the Minsk ceasefire agreement during a meeting Wednesday, a senior State Department official said.
Journalist Azad Safarov reported from Kiev and Laura Smith-Spark wrote and reported in London. CNN’s Elise Labott contributed to this report.