Ukraine chooses the ‘Chocolate King’: Petro Poroshenko wins presidential election according to exit poll

Pro-West billionaire businessman Petro Poroshenko claims victory in presidential vote

The billionaire confectioner Petro Poroshenko, known as Ukraine’s “Chocolate King”, claimed victory in the country’s presidential election on Sunday night after exit polls appeared to give him a majority when voting closed.

Mr Poroshenko, the pre-election favourite, gained more than 55 per cent of the vote, according to surveys conducted by three respected Ukrainian agencies. These were said to have a margin of error of two percentage points, putting him well ahead of the former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, who looked set to finish in second place with just over 12 per cent of the vote. If confirmed by full results which are expected on Monday, there will be no need for a runoff ballot on 15 June.

“All the polls show that the election has been completed in one round and the country has a new president,” Mr Poroshenko, 48, declared. He said the majority of Ukrainians had given him a mandate to continue a course of integration with the rest of Europe but that his first priority was to travel to the east of the country to end “war and chaos” caused by armed pro-Russian separatists. The oligarch said he would not consider negotiating with them until they laid down their weapons.

Read more: Pro-Russian separatists surround house of Ukraine's richest man

While voting in Kiev and other regions of western Ukraine was brisk, separatists had tried to block voting in some eastern areas, including the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk. The incomplete nature of voting in the east raised concerns about the poll’s legitimacy.

Earlier in the day, the streets of Donetsk were eerily silent. As people across western Ukraine massed for what was seen as the most important election since the vote for independence in 1991, almost one million Donetsk residents were left without a single operational polling station.

Shops were shut, streets were empty and the largest sign of a crowd was outside an Orthodox church after morning worship ended. At one polling station that did succeed in briefly opening early in the day, at an industrial college in the Voloshovsky district, a police officer on guard duty said no one had come in – neither voters nor separatists.

 

By mid-afternoon, the pro-Russian militants had succeeded in ensuring that all of the city’s nearly 500 voting stations had been shut down. Further afield, a few towns in the wider Donetsk and Luhansk regions were able to hold ballots, but they were in the minority. Electoral officials said about 20 per cent of polling booths were opened in the two chaotic eastern areas and that just 16 per cent of the population of the Donetsk region who were eligible to vote would be able to do so.

The roads around Donetsk were empty. Despite the warm early summer weather, only a few heavy-goods lorries and rusty freight trains crossed the green fields and rivers that surround the city.

On Saturday, an Italian photojournalist, Andrea Rocchelli, and his Russian translator, Andrey Mironov, were killed near the town of Slovyansk, a separatist stronghold an hour’s drive north of Donetsk. Yesterday, there were unconfirmed reports that another man had died in a shootout with Ukrainian security forces after armed militants made off with ballot papers from a polling station at Novoaydar, in the Luhansk region. Another man was reported wounded. But the incident seemed to be the only major violence on ballot day.

Election monitors from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe had mostly left the area, saying that pro-Russian authorities were waging a campaign of “terror” against them.

It was widely hoped that the appointment of a legitimately elected new leader would go some way towards dampening tensions that have seen eastern Ukraine descend into increasingly bloody turmoil.The interim Prime Minister, Arseny Yatseniuk, said that a new president would help to shift the country from “a grey zone of lawlessness and dark forces… into a place where it is easier to breathe”.

On Sunday night, President Barack Obama said the election was another step towards unifying the country, and that the US looked forward to working with its new president when the result was confirmed.

His Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, has said that he will respect the poll results. In recent days, Russian troops have started moving away from the Ukrainian border, calming fears of an imminent invasion. However, for many voters in the east, where there is still considerable nostalgia for the days of the Soviet Union, there is no particularly representative candidate.

In the sleepy town of Dmitrov, the elegantly shabby headquarters of the local “Palace of Culture” was being used to house polling station No 140,743. Posters of the 18 candidates were pinned to the walls and observers sat next to booths decorated with curtains in Ukraine’s national colours of yellow and blue as voters occasionally came in to cast ballots. “We are against the war. We are against the Maidan,” explained Vladimir Cevokoz, an engineer working as an election monitor. “We want negotiations to find a solution to this situation.”

Asked which candidates might be able to end to the crisis, he cast his eyes down the list on the ballot despondently. “I don’t know. I just don’t know,” he shrugged.

In neighbouring Krasnoarmeisk, election officials said almost all of the town’s 53 polling stations were open but turnout was low; by 2pm, only 10 per cent of registered voters had attended. “Many people don’t see any suitable candidate for them and many people are afraid of attacks,” explained Ruslan Tovschyk, the head of polling station No 141,082, housed in an office in the town’s main square.

On Sunday, soldiers from the Ukrainian Dnieper Battalion and police were guarding the area in a phalanx of patrol cars. A gang of young men was sitting on a bench beside them. “Look how many people have voted. Compare this to the referendum,” said one of them, who gave his name as Grigori, and described the crowds that had turned out to vote for autonomy in the region the fortnight before.

The men refused to say if they backed Kiev or Moscow, or favoured autonomy. Perhaps, given the confusing mix of loyalties across the region, they were no longer certain what to believe. “The government and the oligarchs – it’s all the same thing,” said one, who gave his name as Artyom. “They are all part of the same criminal group.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness