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Poroshenko: Ukraine To Restore Control Over East This Year

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks during a news conference in Kyiv on January 14.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks during a news conference in Kyiv on January 14.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to regain sovereignty over separatist-held areas in the country's east in 2016.

"Ukrainian sovereignty over the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions must be restored," Poroshenko told journalists on January 14.

He added that securing Crimea's return from Russian control was a priority, saying "de-occupation" of the peninsula that was annexed by Russia in March 2014 must be implemented via international mechanisms and with EU and U.S. help.

"We -- the society, the army, the government -- have largely strengthened our country's defense," the Ukrainian leader also said. "This is reflected by the fact that our enemy is losing its willingness to continue its offensive against Ukraine."

"In January 2015 we had a goal to survive, and in January 2016 we have a goal to succeed," he added. "I hope everyone understands the difference."

Fighting between government forces and Russia-backed separatists has killed more than 9,100 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

Poroshenko said that all points of the cease-fire accords pertaining to the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk that were signed in the Belarusian capital, Minsk, must be implemented by all sides.

"We will not allow any revision of the Minsk agreements," Poroshenko said.

The Minsk agreements called for the return of Ukrainian control over the border between the separatist-held areas and Russia by the end of 2015, but that and other issues agreed in the deal have not been implemented on schedule.

He also stressed that Ukraine has managed to free itself of the "curse" of its dependence on Russian natural gas.

"The process of our integration into the European energy market started last year and will continue this year," Poroshenko pledged.

According to Poroshenko, in 2015, Ukraine managed to implement a wide range of reforms whose success, he says, is evidenced by the European Commission's decision to back the introduction of a visa-free regime for Ukrainians traveling to EU states. The EU's executive body backed Ukraine's bid for visa-free access to the European Union in December, citing the country's implementation of reforms as a reason. The commission must now formally recommend granting visa-free status, which will then be subject to approval by EU governments and the European Parliament.

Poroshenko vowed that reforms will continue and that new, corruption-free, law-enforcement structures and judicial institutions would be established.

With reporting by UNIAN, AFP and AP
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