Leading in Ukraine election, billionaire Petro Poroshenko declares victory


Billionaire Petro Poroshenko leads all candidates with 54% of the vote counted in Ukraine’s presidential election, the Central Elections Commission reported Monday, according to CNN.
He declared victory a day earlier, following preliminary exit polls that suggested he had secured a majority of the vote.
His closest challenger, Yulia Tymoshenko, a former Ukrainian prime minister and the leader of the Batkivshchyna party, conceded the election after exit polls showed her with 13% of the vote, which matched Monday’s early official tally.
Poroshenko, a candy tycoon known as the “Chocolate King,” is also a seasoned politician known for his pro-European Union views.
At a news conference in Kiev, he reiterated that European integration would be his priority. He added that in Sunday’s vote, the President and the whole of Ukraine had changed. He said Russia needs to participate in bringing peace to eastern Ukraine.
Voters were picking a successor to the ousted pro-Moscow President, Viktor Yanukovych, in a country torn apart by Russia’s takeover of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and a bloody conflict involving pro-Russia factions.
The unrest has centered in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where separatists have claimed independence following a disputed referendum earlier this month – and many there did not get to cast ballots Sunday.
Reports from the region indicated that perhaps 75% of polling stations were closed, according to regional officials.
And more violence was reported overnight as authorities suspended flights at Donetsk airport, after separatist gunmen stormed the terminal building, airport spokesman Dmitriy Kosinov said Monday.
While armed militia members took up positions inside the terminal building, Ukrainian government forces continued to hold their positions around the airfield.
Russia denies having direct influence over the militants, and Russian President Vladimir Putin has said he will respect Ukrainians’ choice in the election.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov reiterated that stance Monday during a news conference in Moscow. But Lavrov also said Russia hopes that the new president will put an end to all “extremist activities” in eastern Ukraine and end the anti-terrorist operation in the eastern regions.
Amid heightened tensions, instances of intimidation in eastern Ukraine appeared widespread.