By Laurence Norman
BRUSSELS--Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko said on Thursday he doesn't believe the incoming administration of U.S. President Donald Trump will change Washington's backing for the country, saying Mr. Trump had raised with him Russian "aggression" against Ukraine and its illegal annexation of Crimea.
Speaking at a press conference in Brussels after a meeting with European Union leaders, Mr. Poroshenko said that Ukraine has "a strong bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress."
"We don't expect any significant changes in this bipartisan support," Mr. Poroshenko said when asked about future U.S. policy.
The Ukrainian leader spoke by telephone to Mr.Trump last Friday. He said they had a detailed conversation which allowed Mr. Poroshenko to give the U.S. president-elect a run down of the conflict in eastern Ukraine between Kiev and pro-Russian separatists.
"I can confirm you that the question of Russian aggression, (and the) illegal annexation of Crimea was raised by President-elect Trump."
Speaking alongside Mr. Poroshenko, European Council President Donald Tusk said that during his telephone conversation with Mr. Trump last Friday, the president-elect had also made comments about Ukraine which were "at least promising compared with some announcements during the campaign time."
During the presidential election, Mr. Trump talked repeatedly about improving ties with Russia and at various points appeared to play down the significance of Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and what western countries have said was Moscow's backing of separatists in eastern Ukraine.
After Thursday's meeting, Mr. Tusk and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker pledged to stand by Ukraine in the coming months.
Mr. Juncker said that once Ukraine completes a legislative change to allow the export of lumber products, the EU is ready to disburse the next tranche--worth EUR600 million ($636 million)--to Kiev. That will be the second tranche of a total earmarked loan of EUR1.8 billion.
Mr. Juncker also said he expects the EU to approve by the end of the year one of the key requests of Mr. Poroshenko's increasingly unpopular government--visa-free entry for Ukrainian tourists to the bloc.
Mr. Tusk said he believed the EU will also press on with a rollover of broad economic sanctions on Russia. The current measures expire in late January.
Mr. Tusk said he believed a decision to roll the measures over could come before EU leaders next meet in mid-December.
Write to Laurence Norman at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
November 24, 2016 10:16 ET (15:16 GMT)
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