EU chief: 'We stand steadfast behind Ukraine'


The European Union staunchly supports Ukraine's territorial integrity in the face of Russian aggression, European Council President Donald Tusk said Thursday during a visit to Kiev.

"We stand steadfast behind Ukraine," Tusk said in a televised press conference with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

"We do not recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea," Tusk said, referring to the southern Ukrainian peninsula that Russia occupied three years ago, prompting outcry in the West.

"Today I can see clearly that you will not be defeated by an external enemy. You are too strong," Tusk said.

Ukraine's military has been battling Russia-aligned rebels near the Russian border for the past three years.

About 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict, which erupted when Ukraine ousted its pro-Russian president amid mass protests calling for closer ties with the West.

The EU has reinforced its relations with Ukraine in recent days by completing the adoption of an association agreement with the former Soviet republic.

Controversy over the agreement catalyzed Ukraine's political crisis three years ago: It led to the ouster of then-president Viktor Yanukovych, who wanted to indefinitely postpone the deal in favour of closer ties with Russia.

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