, KIEV, September 12- President Petro Poroshenko said on Friday that the Ukrainian and European parliaments would meet on September 16 to jointly ratify an historic agreement pulling his country further out of Russia’s reach.
Poroshenko also told an international conference in Kiev he hoped to secure a “special status” for Ukraine with the US during his visit to Washington next week when he will meet President Barack Obama and deliver a keynote address in Congress.
His announcements came on the same day that the European Union applied its most punishing economic sanctions to date against Russia for its alleged support for pro Kremlin insurgents fighting against Kiev’s rule.
Poroshenko called the planned simultaneous ratifications of Ukraine’s trade and political association agreement with the European Union by the two parliaments on Tuesday an “historic moment” that defines his country’s future.
“The Ukrainian people have passed one of the most difficult tests for the right to be European,” he said, referring to the five-month uprising that he and Ukraine’s Western allies accuse the Kremlin of inciting.
“I am absolutely sure and confident that the country will start to be more democratic and have more freedom,” he said in English.
The 48 year old leader — elected in May after the February ouster of a Kremlin-backed president who had ditched the same EU pact — admitted that Ukraine has had a “significant problem” since Russia’s March seizure of its Crimea peninsula and subsequent eastern revolt.
But he stressed that Crimea would eventually rejoin Ukraine because its people will realise the benefits of living in a country with Western values and freedom.
“Crimea will be back together with us, not necessarily by military means,” he promised.
“We will win in free, democratic and economic terms for Crimea This is the only way we can win — fighting for the minds of Crimea.”
He said his trip to Washington, where he meets Obama on Thursday, will include discussions about boosting Ukraine’s ties with the United States.
“We are also hoping in the very near future for a special status of a non-NATO member ally,” he said.
Obama has rejected direct military involvement in the Ukrainian crisis although Western allies are discussing providing more non lethal military assistance and equipment for Ukraine’s underfunded and poorly trained military.