Ukrainian confectionery billionaire Petro Poroshenko has claimed victory in his country’s presidential elections after exit polls predictd he won outright.
It comes after a day during which voters in the west of the country have flocked to the ballot boxes while few in the east have been able to have their say.
Polls closed at 8pm local time (6pm UK time) and early indications were that Mr Poroshenkohad won a landslide.
One of the polls said he had managed to get 55.9% of the vote and another said he had 57.3%.
In a distant second was former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko with 12.9 percent.
Full results are expected on Monday but Mr Poroshenkoseized the opportunity to say he had been given a mandate to lead.
The vote has been billed as the most important since the former Soviet republic won independence from Moscow 23 years ago.
But it is feared that the absence of over 15% of the electorate, due to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and separatist action in two eastern regions, may mar any result.
It could leave the Kremlin questioning the victor’s legitimacy, despite Mr Putin’s new pledge to respect the will of the people.
Mr Poroshenkoclaimed victory within minutes of the results of the exit polls being announced.
He immediately pledged to follow the path of European integration in line with the wishes of most voters, said Reuters.
Standing side by side with Vitali Klitschkoduring a rally for supporters, he said his first steps would be to “end war and bring peace”.
He said that Ukraine would never recognise the Crimea referendum and what he called the “occupation of Crimea”, wanted parliamentary elections by the end of the year and when asked about relations with Russia, he said “sovereignty and territorial integrity of my country are paramount”.
Only about 20% of the polling stations in the heavily industrialised, Russian-speaking Donetsk region, which has 3.3 million registered voters, were open, authorities said.
None were open in the city of Donetsk, where the streets were empty, and only 426 of 2,430 were open across the region.
Although there was no significant violence, armed pro-Russian militias were seen on the streets in the region with ballot boxes being smashed.
Sky’s Katie Stallard, in eastern Ukraine witnessed separatists burning ballot papers in the town of Makiivka.
25 May 2014 | 7:02 pm – Source: orange.co.uk