BRUSSELS (Alliance News) - Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was in Brussels on Thursday for talks with top EU officials on the implementation of a shaky ceasefire deal in the east of his country, as well as economic challenges facing Kiev.
Poroshenko's visit includes talks with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and EU President Donald Tusk.
While battling a pro-Russian insurgency in eastern Ukraine, cash-strapped Kiev is receiving international support to stave off bankruptcy, in return for carrying out wide-reaching political and economic reforms.
But the government has been criticized for failing to make sufficient progress in rooting out deep-seated corruption or pushing through the necessary changes to bring Ukraine in line with Western standards.
Meanwhile, the conflict in eastern Ukraine has soured Kiev's relations with Russia, a key energy supplier to its neighbour.
The EU is brokering negotiations between Moscow and Kiev to secure gas supplies for the upcoming winter, but there has been little progress so far. Ukraine is a key transit route for gas deliveries to Western Europe.
Thursday's talks are also expected to touch on Russian concerns over an EU-Ukraine free trade deal. Its implementation has been delayed to address Moscow's fears that low-priced European goods could flood into Russia from Ukraine, to the detriment of local industry.
Poroshenko's visit follows talks in Berlin on Monday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, to discuss the ceasefire deal for eastern Ukraine signed in the Belarusian capital in February by the three leaders and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Conditions include a full cessation of hostilities, withdrawal of large-calibre weapons 50 kilometres from the so-called contact line dividing Ukrainian and rebel forces, as well as thorny issues such as granting Ukraine full control of its eastern border with Russia.
Kiev has also pledged to devolve power and hold local elections in eastern Ukraine.
But key elements of the Minsk deal remain outstanding, raising doubt over whether it can be fully implemented by an end-of-year deadline. Monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) have accused both sides of violations.
On Wednesday, OSCE representative Martin Sajdik said the warring sides had agreed to implement a ceasefire by Tuesday, the first day of school in Ukraine.
In the coming months, the EU will face new decisions on sanctions it has imposed on Russia, after pledging to lift them only when all conditions of the Minsk deal have been met.