Kiev: The European Union`s foreign policy chief said Tuesday the 28-nation bloc would stay united on Ukraine despite pressure from some members to drop or ease its sanctions on Russia.
Federica Mogherini told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during her first visit to the war-torn country since her August appointment that Brussels intended to "walk hand-in-hand" with Kiev.
"We discussed the way in which the European Union -- keeping its unity, which has been there and will continue to be there -- can support the implementation in full and on all points the Minsk agreement," she said in reference to Ukraine`s shaky peace deal with Russian-backed rebels.
"We will continue to stay in Ukraine, making sure that this conflict comes to an end with the full respect of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity," Mogherini, a former Italian foreign minister, added.
Mogherini came to Kiev ahead of a tough decision in Brussels on whether to re-engage Russia or step up sanctions against it for its backing of gunmen who rose up against Ukraine`s pro-Western government in April.
The European Union will hold a summit on Thursday in which Ukraine and the bloc`s relations with Russia are likely to head the agenda.
EU members like Bulgaria and Italy -- as well as a part of the business community and politicians in Germany -- want to either soften or outright drop sanctions against Russia imposed for its seizure of Crimea and alleged military presence in eastern Ukraine.
Moscow denies backing the rebels and argues that its annexation of Crimea followed a legitimate local vote.
It has also struck back at the West by banning most of its food imports.
Mogherini`s own appointment to her post was opposed by some former Soviet satellite nations that fully support tough sanctions on Russia. They are suspicious of her past comments on the need to keep ties with Moscow open.
She has also been criticised for hiring a spokeswoman whose husband is employed by a public relations firm that lobbies for the interests of Russia`s state-held natural gas giant Gazprom.
Mogherini has previously backed "re-engaging" Russian President Vladimir Putin -- an approach opposed strongly by countries that want to keep the sanctions in place until the Kremlin hands back Crimea to Kiev.