UK one of Ukraine's strongest allies in Donbass de-escalation - Yatsenyuk

Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has welcomed the United Kingdom's contribution to efforts aimed at settling the Ukrainian crisis and maintaining security in the country.

"We are convinced that the UK is one of our strongest allies in conflict de-escalation and Ukraine's aspirations to become a successful state," Yatsenyuk said at a meeting with UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Kiev on Thursday, according to the Ukrainian cabinet's press service.

The Ukrainian prime minister also thanked the UK government for its decision to send military experts to Ukraine in order to "make the Ukrainian army much stronger."

"We are also expecting to receive additional aid, which we will use in defensive, not offensive, operations," he said.

"It concerns both our security and the security of entire Europe. It is a challenge for all of us, and I am convinced that we will offer a joint, bold and powerful response," Yatsenyuk said.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has reaffirmed the need to deploy a peacekeeping mission for de-escalating tensions in the conflict-ridden Donbass.

Poroshenko made the statement at a meeting with Philip Hammond, the presidential press service reported. "The sides agreed that the activity of the OSCE mission to Ukraine should be stepped up," it said.

Moreover, Poroshenko and Hammond emphasized the importance of the Minsk deal observation by all sides. "It would be very dangerous for European partners to look at the situation through rose-tinted glasses and to believe that everything is all right," the Ukrainian president underlined. There are still hostages, among them Nadiya Savchenko, the border is yet to be controlled, and foreign troops have yet to be withdrawn from the occupied territories, he said.

The interlocutors also conferred on economic and defense issues, and the president said that Ukraine counted on further support from the United Kingdom and effective bilateral cooperation. "We are grateful for your contribution to the NATO trust fund. We are happy with our economic collaboration," Poroshenko said.

He urged the UK to ratify the Ukraine-EU Association Agreement.

In turn, Hammond reaffirmed the staunch support to the Ukrainian fight for sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He also said that the EU was ready to back the sanctions policy towards Russia and to expand the sanctions in the case of further escalation of tensions, the press service of the Ukrainian president said.

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