BRUSSELS -- EU ambassadors have approved visa liberalization for Ukraine, a key step toward closer ties and visa-free travel to the EU for Ukrainians.
EU ministers are now set to rubber-stamp the decision on May 11, and the signing ceremony for the deal is expected to take place in Strasbourg on May 17.
EU diplomats have told RFE/RL they hope the visa-free regime will enter into force in mid-June.
Analysts say Russia's seizure of Crimea and involvement in a war against government forces in eastern Ukraine have only increased many Ukrainians' desire for closer ties with the EU.
Many in the country of 44 million have closely followed the process since December 2015, when the European Commission recommended to EU member states and the European Parliament that Ukraine be granted visa liberalization.
The decision will apply to all Ukrainian citizens who have biometric passports. They will be able to enter all EU member states apart from Ireland and the United Kingdom for up to 90 days during any 180-day period.
Visa-free EU travel began on March 28 for citizens of Georgia, another former Soviet republic that is under pressure from Russia.