Ukraine's Poroshenko to be sworn in as east seethes with separatist conflict

June 7, 2014 04:07
1 minute read.


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Petro Poroshenko will be sworn in on Saturday as Ukraine's president, buoyed by messages of support from the West but still seeking a strategy to deal with Russia's Vladimir Putin, who opposes Kiev's military drive against pro-Russian separatists.

Government forces are almost certain to be fighting rebel fighters in the east even as Poroshenko takes the oath of office and delivers his inaugural speech. Kiev began an intensified campaign against the rebels the morning after Poroshenko's May 25 election, and the fighters have fought back, turning parts of the east into a war zone.

The billionaire confectionary magnate, 48, will be Ukraine's fifth president since independence and its first since 1991 to win election with more than half the vote in a single round, after promising to bridge the east-west divide that has split the country and thrust it into a battle for its very survival.

Western governments and Russia, locked in a geopolitical fight over Ukraine's future, will be watching for clues on how he intends to handle the eastern rebellions.

Poroshenko says he wants closer relations with Europe, and won support and encouragement for his policies to stabilise Ukraine when he met US President Barack Obama and European leaders in Poland and France this week.

He also briefly met Putin in France during ceremonies marking the World War Two D-Day landings on Friday, and may have discussed a possible ceasefire with the rebels. Putin said he welcomed Poroshenko's plans to stop the bloodshed, but Ukraine must stop its "punitive" military operation.

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