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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EU Offers Closer Ties to Kiev, Tbilisi

BRUSSELS -- The European Union proposed boosting its ties with Ukraine, Georgia and four other former Soviet republics on Wednesday in a move likely to irk Russia.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the plan, which offers financial aid, conditional free-trade pacts and easier travel for the countries' citizens, gained urgency when Russia invaded Georgia in August.

"Today we are proposing an ambitious initiative to enhance our support to six partners in eastern Europe and the Caucasus," Barroso told a news conference. "Events in Georgia in August had influenced this process."

Under the scheme, called the "Eastern Partnership," the 27-nation EU would negotiate new association agreements with Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova and Belarus in reward for democratic and free-market reforms.