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Poroshenko, Moscow Signal They're Ready For Dialogue


Petro Poroshenko, who appeared to be headed for outright victory in Ukraine's presidential election, during a news conference in Kyiv on May 26.
Ukraine’s new president and Moscow have signaled they are ready to talk over the crisis in Ukraine.

Speaking to reporters in Kyiv on May 26 just before it was officially announced he had won the first round of the presidential election outright, Petro Poroshenko said he plans to meet with the Russian leadership in early June.

He added that stability in eastern Ukraine is impossible without Moscow’s participation.

Poroshenko said he wanted to continue the military offensive in the separatist east but to make it more "efficient." He added that counterterrorist operations should "not take two or three months but hours."

As if on cue, heavy fighting broke out at the international airport in Donetsk, where separatists have a major foothold. The explosions and prolonged gunfire came after reports that pro-Russian gunmen had stormed the airport earlier in the day, forcing a suspension of services.

Back in Kyiv, Poroshenko also said he has no plan to change the country’s current government and its prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

The new Ukrainian president faces a raging separatist insurgency in the east, the recent unrecognized annexation by Russia of Crimea and continuing intimidation from Moscow, looming financial crisis, and massive public disenchantment at runaway corruption and other official malfeasance.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia was ready for a dialogue with Poroshenko.

Lavrov added that Moscow regarded "dialogue and compromise between Kyiv and the regions" as the key to resolving Ukraine's crisis. But he warned Kyiv against stepping up operations against separatists now that voting is over.

Finally, Lavrov said that Ukraine's presidential campaign was "not without problems" but reiterated Russian President Vladimir Putin's stance that "Russia will respect the will of the Ukrainian people."

Russia is still believed to have thousands of troops massed near its border with Ukraine.

Poroshenko Wins, Vote Praised

Ukraine's Central Election Commission declared Poroshenko the winner late on May 26, saying he won more than 54 percent of the vote after ballots from 90 percent of the precincts had tabulated.

The election commission said Poroshenko had won in every district where the votes had been fully counted.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko received 13 percent, followed by Oleh Lyashko with 8 percent of the vote, and Anatoliy Hrytsenko with 5 percent.

The Central Election Commission said national turnout was more than 60 percent, although only a fraction of the stations in the separatist regions of Donetsk and Luhansk were opened.

Both regions declared independence after disputed referendums on May 11 that Kyiv and the West have dismissed as illegitimate.

International observers on May 26 praised Ukraine for holding a vote that they said was largely in line with international norms.

Joao Soares, special coordinator of the OSCE election monitoring mission in Ukraine, told a news conference in Kyiv that the poll "largely upheld democratic commitments."

Soares said monitors did see multiple threats, intimidation, and abduction of election officials in the east, which is largely controlled by pro-Russian separatists.

Andreas Gross, head of a delegation from the Council of Europe, one of the bodies leading the mission, said that "the extraordinary quality" of the poll "provides the new president of Ukraine with the legitimacy to establish immediately an inclusive dialogue with all citizens in the eastern regions."

The EU said in a joint statement by European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso that "the successful holding of these elections constitutes a major step towards the objective of de-escalating tensions and restoring security for all Ukrainians."

EU spokesman Peter Stano, who read out the joint statement, said Ukrainians "should take these polls as an opportunity for a fresh start for the country."

The White House welcomed the results, hailing the "courageous" Ukrainians and saying the election was another step forward toward uniting the country.

Poroshenko was a founding member early last decade of the Party of Regions, of which Yanukovych was chairman, but played an active role in the Orange Revolution in 2004 and served as foreign minister in 2009-10.

In the Kyiv mayoral election, an exit poll from the May 25 voting showed former boxer Vitali Klitschko -- an ally of Poroshenko and leading voice during the pro-EU Euromaidan street protests and civil unrest -- poised to win with some 57 percent of the vote.

He said on May 26 that the Euromaidan barricades had served their purpose and should be dismantled.
With reporting by AFP, Reuters, and Interfax

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