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Poroshenko Declares Victory In Ukraine Vote; Runoff Likely Averted

Ukrainian businessman, politician, and presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko declared victory in front of supporters at his election headquarters in Kyiv on May 25.
Ukrainian businessman, politician, and presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko declared victory in front of supporters at his election headquarters in Kyiv on May 25.
Confectionery tycoon Petro Poroshenko has declared victory in Ukraine's presidential election with exit polls indicating he secured an absolute majority in the first round of voting.

Speaking shortly after the exit-poll results were announced, Poroshenko said his first mission as president was to "end war and bring peace" and announced his first trip would be to the heavily pro-Russian, rebel-held east.

He also said Ukraine will never recognize the Crimean referendum and the "occupation of Crimea" and added that Ukrainians have chosen the path of "European integration."

Poroshenko also said he backed the holding of parliamentary elections in Ukraine this year.

Poroshenko's main contender, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko made clear she would concede.

Two polls gave Poroshenko between 55.9 percent and 57.3 percent of the vote. Tymoshenko came second with 12.9 percent, and 12.4 percent respectively.

Preliminary results with almost 25 percent of votes counted gave Poroshenko 54.1 percent and former premier Tymoshenko 13.1.
Poroshenko: 'Ukraine Will Never Recognize Occupation Of Crimea'
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The United States quickly welcomed the result, with a White House statement saying that U.S. President Barack Obama looks forward to working with the next Ukrainian head of state. The statement hailed the "courageous" Ukrainians, and said the election was another step forward toward uniting the country.

U.S. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce, R-Calif., called the election "a clear victory for Ukrainian democracy and a big setback to Vladimir Putin's efforts to divide the country."

In the Kyiv mayoral election, an exit poll showed former boxer Vitaly Klitschko -- an ally of Poroshenko and "Euromaidan" stalwart who accompanied the latter on the dais at his victory announcement -- on target to win with some 57 percent of the vote.

Ukrainians turned out in large numbers to vote in Ukraine's presidential election, three months after President Viktor Yanukovych fled to Russian exile amid mass street protests.
Kyiv Voters Share Their Hopes
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U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt told RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service after visiting 10 polling stations that he had seen "thousands of Ukrainians lining up to participate in this democratic exercise," saying that he had witnessed "no particular problems."

The vote came with pro-Russian separatists in control of much of two eastern regions.

The country's Central Election Commission said that by the scheduled end of voting, 8:00 p.m. Kyiv time, national turnout stood at more than 60 percent.

Long queues were reported during the day at some polling stations in the capital and in western Ukraine. Authorities said turnout in the Kyiv region was 68.5 percent and more than 76 percent in the western Lviv region.

However, in the separatist region of Donetsk, only a fraction of the stations were open, and none in the city of Donetsk itself, where separatists publicly smashed ballot boxes.

But in the Azov Sea port of Mariupol, 202 out of the city's 216 polling stations were working.

In the neighboring region of Luhansk, officials said only two of the 12 polling districts held elections.

Luhansk and Donetsk declared independence after referendums on 11 May that featured masked gunmen overseeing the voting and that Kyiv and the West dismissed as "illegal."

Earlier on May 25, acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned: “All attempts to wreck the election made by Russia and Russian-funded terrorists are bound to fail."

Kyiv accuses Moscow of backing the separatists.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has vowed to respect the outcome of the vote and work with the new Ukrainian administration.

Putin had no immediate reaction to the result of the presidential vote in Ukraine, instead focusing on an ice-hockey world-championship game featuring the Russian team in Belarus.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea region in March after a disputed referendum there.

Eighteen candidates competed in the presidential poll.

The refusal of Moscow-backed President Viktor Yanukovych's to sign the deal triggered months of mass protests that ended when he fled to Russia in February.

Trouble In East

More than 1,000 OSCE observers checked polling stations and vote counts across the country, outside of Donetsk and Luhansk.

The ballot took place despite weeks of fighting in the eastern regions, where the rebels had vowed to block the ballot in the east, but the voting took place largely without reports of violence.

In Donetsk, hundreds of pro-Russian separatists, including some masked gunmen, gathered outside the walled home of industrialist Rinat Akhmetov on election day, reportedly threatening to "nationalize" his property.

Akhmetov, a coal and steel billionaire, had urged people to vote and accused the separatists of actions that could lead to "genocide."

Akhmetov's suburban residence is protected by armed security guards.

Akhmetov, whose businesses employ about 300,000 people, had encouraged his workers to take part in peace rallies in the past few days against the separatists and in favor of Ukrainian unity.

According to reports in the Ukrainian media, a man was killed in a shootout with Ukrainian security forces in the eastern part of the country on election day.

Interfax-Ukraine news agency quoted Deputy Interior Minister Serhiy Yarovoy as saying the shooting took place after "armed separatists" seized ballot papers at Novoaydar, north of the regional capital, Luhansk. He said the dead man's identity was unclear.

Based on reporting by AP, AFP, Reuters, Interfax, and ITAR-TASS
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