(Adds quotes, detail on deal, background)
KIEV, March 23 (Reuters) - Ukraine signed a preliminary agreement on Friday with France to buy 55 helicopters from a division of Airbus to be used by the police, border guards and emergency services.
The deal was announced during a visit to Kiev by French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who underlined French support for Ukraine in its standoff with Russia but also urged the authorities to do more to tackle corruption at home.
The visit comes at a time when France may follow Britain's lead in taking measures against Russia in retaliation for a nerve agent attack on British soil against a Russian spy.
Ukraine envisages the first delivery of helicopters this year, the Ukrainian interior ministry said in a statement. The order is for a mixture of 145, 125 and 225 models.
The value of the deal was not disclosed.
After meeting with Le Drian, Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman forecast that trade turnover between Ukraine and France could grow to as much as $3.5 billion from $2 billion in 2016.
"France is a reliable, strategic partner," Groysman said. "We sincerely value France's support of Ukraine's sovereignty."
France, along with Germany, has spearheaded international efforts to find a resolution to Ukraine's nearly four-year-old conflict with Russia-backed separatists in which over 10,000 people have been killed.
In a briefing, Le Drian said France had decided to pledge 500,000 euros ($617,000) in additional humanitarian aid for the conflict-hit eastern Donbass region.
"I want to express our concern over the situation, which remains critical," he said. ($1 = 0.8100 euros) (Reporting by Natalia Zinets Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Matthias Williams and Adrian Croft)