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Canada's Prime Minister Visits Ukraine

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (L) and Ukraine's Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman shake hands during a meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, July 11, 2016.

Ukraine and Canada on Monday signed a free trade agreement during Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's first visit to Ukraine.

Canada is home to a sizeable Ukrainian minority and has been a key backer for Ukraine during the two-year separatist war in the east.

President Petro Poroshenko told a news conference at the end of the talks in Kiev on Monday that the free trade deal will do away with "99 percent of barriers within the next seven years in trade'' between the two countries.

Trudeau received a rapturous welcome in Kiev with Ukraine rolling out a red carpet for Trudeau at the welcome ceremony outside Poroshenko's office in central Kiev.

"I've been looking forward to this visit since being elected prime minister. Coming to Ukraine was a real priority to me,'' Trudeau said, lauding the trade deal as a milestone agreement that will "improve market access and create more predictable conditions for trade.''

For Canada, the deal was signed by International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, who has Ukrainian ancestry.

Trudeau reiterated Canada's support for the Kiev government's fight against Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine but stopped short of pledging weapons supplies that Poroshenko is anxious to get from the West.

Asked about the possibility of Canadian lethal aid to Ukraine, Trudeau said "right now the focus is on the training mission'' that Canada is involved in helping the Ukrainian army.

But he added that his government will continue to monitor the situation to assess what would be the best way to support Ukraine's fight against the separatists.