File-AP Photo/Mykola Lazarenko, Pool
Ukraine's New Leader to Talk to Russia and East

Ukraine's new president-elect wasted no time today immediately focusing on the top issues at hand promising to negotiate an end to a pro-Russia insurgency in the east and saying he was willing to begin talks with Moscow.

Russia quickly welcomed the offer from 48-year-old chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko, raising hopes that his election will indeed ease the protracted crisis that has fuelled tensions unseen since the end of the Cold War.

International observers, meanwhile hailed Ukraine's presidential vote as a "genuine election," saying it was held freely and fairly.

Poroshenko, known for his pragmatism, supports building strong ties with Europe but also has stressed the importance of mending relations with Moscow. Upon claiming victory in yesterday's vote, he said his first step as president would be to visit the Donbass eastern industrial region, where pro-Russia separatists have seized government buildings, declared independence and battled government troops in weeks of fighting.

"Peace in the country and peace in the east is my main priority," Poroshenko said, signalling that he would bring to an end the Ukrainian army's much-criticised campaign to drive out the armed pro-Russia separatists.

"The anti-terrorist operation cannot and should not last two or three months," he said. "It should and will last hours."

The military operation has caused civilian deaths and destroyed property angering many eastern residents while still failing to crush the rebellion.

The president-elect also had harsh words for the pro-Russia gunmen, comparing them to Somalia pirates.

"Their goal is to turn Donbass into a Somalia where they would rule with the power of machine guns. L will never allow that to happen on the territory of Ukraine," Poroshenko said, adding that he hoped Russia would support his efforts to stabilise the east.

In Moscow, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Russia appreciated Poroshenko's statements about the importance of Ukraine's ties with Russia and his pledge to negotiate an end to fighting in the east.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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