Good afternoon. Today we held our first EU-Ukraine Summit with President Zelenskyy. It followed our first meeting in early June. And it was an excellent summit that allowed us to even further improve the partnership and friendship between Ukraine and the European Union. This is also reflected in the joint statement that we agreed today.
Our partnership is built on the Association Agreement, which is the most comprehensive agreement that the EU has with any country. It provides the framework for our continuing political association and economic integration. Today we discussed how to make full use of its potential for the benefit of our citizens and businesses.
President Juncker will speak more on our economic and energy cooperation, so let me instead once again confirm the EU's unwavering support for Ukraine's territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence. We do not and will not recognise the illegal annexation of Crimea and Sevastopol by Russia.
Only a few days ago, the EU unanimously extended the economic sanctions against Russia for another six months. The sanctions will remain in place until the Minsk agreements are fully implemented.
The June European Council also called on Russia to release without any further delay the detained 24 Ukrainian servicemen and ensure unhindered and free passage to and from the Azov Sea.
We condemn the Russian measures entitling Ukrainian citizens of the areas currently not under the control of the Government to apply for Russian citizenship in a simplified manner. This runs counter to the Minsk agreements and we stand ready to consider further options, including non-recognition of such Russian passports.
Yesterday, I visited eastern Ukraine to witness first-hand the situation at the line of contact. It is clear that the Minsk agreements need - more than ever before - to be implemented by all sides. Russia has a particular responsibility in this regard. Today we reaffirmed our full support for the diplomatic efforts in the Normandy format, the OSCE and Trilateral Contact Group, to find a peaceful solution that respects Ukraine's territorial integrity and sovereignty.
During my visit yesterday, I saw the disengagement of forces near Stanitsa Luhanska. This encouraging step now needs to be further strengthened. We expect Russia to make full use of its considerable influence over the separatists to make this possible.
But I also witnessed the critical situation in which people affected by conflict live. The EU continues to support the efforts to alleviate the suffering that I saw, hand in hand with OSCE, UN agencies as well as international NGOs. The EU also stands ready to support reconstruction, once the Minsk agreements are implemented.
At our last two Summits I mentioned Oleh Sentsov. In December, he won the Sakharov Prize, which the European Parliament awards to those who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought. Unfortunately, Oleh is still imprisoned. I renew our call to Russia to release him and all illegally detained Ukrainians in Russia and the Crimean peninsula.