WASHINGTON — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Ukraine last weekend to honor 20 years of partnership, according to a NATO announcement. While there, Stoltenberg pointedly spoke out against Russian aggression during his remarks.

"Russia has maintained its aggressive actions against Ukraine. But NATO and NATO allies stand on your side," he said. "NATO allies do not, and will not, recognize Russia's illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea."

At a press conference, Stoltenberg said it was clear the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine was not effective and urged Russia to pull its thousands of troops from Ukraine, emphasizing that the Minsk agreements must be fully implemented and Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe monitors be granted in full. The OSCE sponsors a special Ukraine mission that monitors all regions of the country.

Ukraine President, Petro Poroshenko was optimistic about NATO-backed defense against Russia.

"I am absolutely confident that effective solidarity and unity, European, trans-Atlantic, global, informal of G7 is an effective instrument to keep Russia at the table of negotiation," he said in his remarks.

Stoltenberg complimented Ukraine for its movement toward NATO standards and for being the only partner participating in all NATO missions and operations, including in Afghanistan and in Kosovo.

Meanwhile, NATO has been assisting Ukraine through a Comprehensive Assistance Package, which was signed last year at the Warsaw Summit. Stoltenberg said NATO plans to continue this support, "which will make [Ukraine] more democratic, more resilient and more prosperous."

During his visit to Ukraine, Stoltenberg attended the opening of the new premises of the NATO representation to Ukraine alongside Vice Prime Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration, Ivanna Klympush-Tsintsadze.