KIEV, Ukraine, Dec. 29 (UPI) -- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko expressed optimism Monday a January summit meeting will speed his country's peace process.
He will travel to Astana, Kazakhstan, to meet Jan. 15 with Russian President Vladimir Putin, after a previous meeting between the two in Milan, Italy, resulted in no progress in ending the pro-Russian rebellion in eastern Ukraine. French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are also expected to attend the Astana summit.
Speaking at a two-hour press conference in Kiev after he signed legislation removing Ukraine from the list of non-aligned countries, a move to get his country on track to join the European Union and, eventually, NATO, Poroshenko said, "The level and the intensity of the (diplomatic) dialogue makes us feel optimistic."
"The world became less safe, less predictable. The post-war global security system was ruined. Someone really hoped that we are not able to protect ourselves, but I am proud how Ukraine lived through this year. We have not just survived; we have found a worthy answer to all these challenges."
He added a ceasefire, and growing the Ukrainian economy so it can achieve an 0.5 percent growth rate by 2016, are his goals for the new year.
In may Poroshenko will attend a European Union summit meeting in Riga, Latvia, where it is expected he will press for visa-free travel between Ukraine and EU countries, in the manner of current EU procedure.