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EU's Juncker Promises Ukraine 600 Million Euros In Aid

Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman (left) and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker hold a joint news conference in Brussels on February 10.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker says the European Union will give Ukraine 600 million euros ($640 million) to bolster government finances.

Juncker, speaking on February 10 after talks with Ukraine Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, said the country had pressed ahead with reforms despite difficult conditions and that the EU should now make good on its aid pledges.

"We have a strategic partnership with Ukraine and our future relations will develop along these lines," he told reporters after the meeting.

Hroysman said it was very important to send a strong signal to Ukrainians that ties with the EU were "a positive result and would improve their lives."

Juncker also said he expects that visa liberalization for citizens of Ukraine, long sought by Kyiv, would be in place by the middle of the year.

The EU and Ukraine have signed an Association Agreement and a free-trade deal to bolster Ukraine's struggling economy, with Brussels offering 3.4 billion euros in loans to help Kyiv balance public spending.

The EU has so far handed over 2.2 billion euros, with disbursements tied to progress on political and economic reforms.

Western governments and analysts say that swifter, more thorough reforms would reduce the influence of Russia, which seized the Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and backs separatists in a war that has killed more than 9,750 people since April 2014.

Based on reporting by Reuters and