The FINANCIAL -- The European Union and Ukraine are holding their annual summit, with the two sides expected to discuss topics that include Kyiv’s reform agenda and Russia's seizure of Crimea in 2014 and backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
This year's summit in Brussels, which Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will attend, is the first since an Association Agreement between the EU and Ukraine came into force in September, strengthening ties between the EU and Ukraine, according to RFE/RL.
The landmark agreement was initially slated for signing in November 2013. But Ukraine's president at the time, Viktor Yanukovych, walked away from it under pressure from Moscow, prompting mass street protests that pushed him from power in February 2014.
Russia responded by annexing the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea and providing military and economic support to separatists in a war against Kyiv that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine.
The EU says the two sides at this year's summit will discuss further implementation of the association agreement and its free-trade area, as well as "progress on the Ukrainian reform agenda."
The EU in May approved $1 billion in loans for Ukraine for a period of 2 1/2 years, saying further disbursements would be contingent on "Ukraine respecting democratic mechanisms and the rule of law, and guaranteeing respect for human rights."
EU foreign-policy chief Federica Mogherini in late June said she was "impressed by the determination and the energy" with which Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman and the Ukrainian government were "pushing for reforms, especially on anticorruption."
But she insisted that "more reforms are needed now."
Mogherini, the United States, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have praised Kyiv for legislation to establish an independent anticorruption court but say more work is needed to complete the reforms and secure further IMF loans.
The EU, which will be represented at the summit by European Council President Donald Tusk and EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, also says it will reaffirm its support for Ukraine's "independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity" in light of "ongoing Russian aggression and conflict in eastern Ukraine."
The summit comes two days before a NATO summit in Brussels and a week before a July 16 summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, according to RFE/RL.
Responding to a question last month about whether he intended to drop Washington's opposition to Russia's annexation of Crimea, Trump responded, "We're going to have to see."
White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders, however, told reporters days later that U.S. sanctions imposed on Russia over its seizure of Crimea would remain until Moscow "returns the peninsula to...Ukraine."
Both the EU and the United States have targeted Russia with several rounds of sanctions in response to Russia's annexation of Crimea and backing of the separatists in eastern Ukraine.
The EU last week officially extended through January 2019 economic sanctions against Russia over Moscow's actions in Ukraine.