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EU's Top Diplomat Travels To Ukraine As Anniversary Of Crimea Takeover Looms


EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini (file photo)

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is traveling to Kyiv on March 11 for talks with top Ukrainian government officials, ahead of the fourth anniversary of Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula.

During her two-day working visit, Mogherini is to meet with President Petro Poroshenko, Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman, Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin, and the minister for temporarily occupied territories and internally displaced persons, Vadym Chernysh.

Mogherini's office said the trip comes "at an important moment for the implementation of crucial reforms" related to the Association Agreement strengthening ties between Ukraine and the European Union, which entered into force in September.

The visit "will be an opportunity to renew the European Union's longstanding commitment to the Ukrainian people and their aspirations to build a stronger Ukraine," a statement said.

Following the ouster of Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych by massive pro-European protests in February 2014, thousands of unmarked Russian soldiers took control of Crimea before Moscow formally seized the peninsula on March 18, 2014.

Russia also fomented unrest in eastern Ukraine, where fighting between Ukrainian government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 10,300 people since April 2014.

In Ukraine, Mogherini is set to address the situation on the ground and the implementation of the Minsk accords -- Western-backed cease-fire and peace deals signed in September 2014 and February 2015, and several additional agreements to cease hostilities.

She is due to meet with Ertugrul Apakan, the chief of the Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Martin Sajdik, the OSCE's special representative to the Trilateral Contact Group, which is attempting to regulate the conflict, and Alain Aeschlimann, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross's mission to Ukraine.

In Kyiv, Mogherini will also hold talks with students at the Taras Shevchenko University and representatives of civil society organizations, according to her office.

The European Union has been one of Ukraine's biggest backers.

On March 9, the European Commission said it had adopted a proposal for a new Macro-Financial Assistance (MFA) program worth up to 1 billion euros ($1.23 billion) to support Ukraine's economic stabilization and structural reforms.

But a statement said all disbursements under the proposed program would be conditional on the implementation of reforms, including steps to intensify the fight against corruption.

The proposal still needs to be approved by the European Parliament and European Council.

Since 2014, the bloc has pledged 12.8 billion euros to support the reform process in Ukraine, including 2.8 billion euros through three previous MFA programs.

Kyiv failed to meet all the conditions for the disbursement of a final tranche of loans under the previous aid program, which expired in January.

With reporting by Reuters
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