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A landmark day for Ukraine

Kyiv celebrated the signing of a landmark free trade pact with the European Union on Friday.Some in the Ukrainian capital wore national dress and released sky blue balloons with gold stars to signify their joy at the agreement.This woman was among the revellers: “The power of the people made Ukraine independent and made the new president sign the association agreement,” she said.The signing of the pact formalised relations between the West and Ukraine.Former leader Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to put pen to paper on the deal, led to protests and his eventual downfall.European Council President Herman van Rompuy said the EU stands by Ukraine now more than ever – something Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was keen to ensure.“Ukraine takes enormous contentment in terms of reform, but it is a document of joint ownership and joint responsibility, so in the spirit of the political association we also expect the European Union to put in effort to support our sovereign choice and protect Ukraine’s independence,” he announced.The same day saw the end of a tentative ceasefire between the government and pro-Russsian separatists in the crisis-torn east of Ukraine. It is a truce that has been marred by violations, ranging from clashes to the downing of a military helicopter.Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to help the peace process and called for a long-term truce in the area.Germany and France have arranged to talk with Poroshenko and Putin on Sunday to assess the situation in the country.The EU demands that Ukrainian rebels agree to ceasefire verification arrangements, as well as freeing hostages and launching serious talks on implementing Poroshenko’s peace plan.French President François Hollande referred to these demands when he told reporters:“If there’s no progress on these three points, the Council (of EU member states)... would take more measures.”

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