KIEV, Ukraine, March 21 (UPI) -- Leaders from the European Union and Ukraine signed a landmark political pact Friday symbolizing the bloc's support for Ukraine as it emerges from revolution.
Officials said the signing of the political section of an association agreement is meant to frame the relationship between the 28-member European Union and Ukraine, setting out next steps the two sides will take to deepen cooperation, the European Voice reported.
The two sides did not sign trade provisions in the association agreement, leaving that element to be addressed after Ukraine's presidential elections in May.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday the decision to delay the signing of the trade provisions was suggested by Ukraine, which is still coping with a political and military crises as Russian President Vladimir Putin Friday signed a decree ratifying Russia's reunification with Crimea, where voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum to secede from Ukraine and join Russia.
Russian and Crimean leaders have questioned the legitimacy of the new government in Kiev, which came into being in late February after pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych was removed from office
Yanukovych's decision in November to back away from the political and trade agreements with the European Union in favor of greater ties with Russia led to bloody, violent street protests that culminated in his ouster.
The European Union is in the process of approving a package of financial support for Ukraine the European Commission said would benefit Ukraine by more than 11 billion euros (about $15 billion) by 2020, European Voice said. Some of the support, which includes loan guarantees, is contingent upon Ukraine agreeing to reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund.