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Europe

Poroshenko pushes for closer ties to Europe in inauguration speech

© FRANCE 24 screen grab

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-06-08

Petro Poroshenko was sworn in as Ukraine's president on Saturday, after which he called for an end to violence in the country’s east and outlined plans to sign an economic agreement with the European Union during his inauguration speech.

“I am calling on everyone who has taken arms in their hands - please lay down your arms,” Poroshenko said, in an emotionally-charged address.

He also said that Ukraine would not give up the Crimean Peninsula, a region on the Black Sea that was annexed by Russia this past March.

“Crimea was, is, and will be Ukrainian,” he declared to a standing ovation.

‘There can be no trade off about Crimea,’ Poroshenko says

Poroshenko underlined the importance of unity in Ukraine, which has been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the east for the past weeks. He dismissed, however, the notion of creating a federalised state, as advocated by Russia.

Ukraine’s new leader added that he intended to sign the economic part of an association agreement with the European Union, as a first step towards full membership. 

Poroshenko’s speech comes one day after he met briefly with Russian President Vladimir Putin at commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of D-Day in France, where they both called for an end to violence in the east. 

The pair also reportedly may have discussed a possible ceasefire agreement with separatists in Ukraine’s east. The Russian president said later on Friday that he welcomed Poroshenko’s plans to stop the violence, calling it the “right approach” to the crisis.

Putin added, however, that Ukraine must stop what he called a “punitive” military operation in its east and warned that Russia would retaliate with measures to protect its economy if if the Ukrainian government signed the association agreement with the EU.

Hope for an end to Ukraine’s crisis

Poroshenko, who won the election on May 25 with the slogan “Live in a new way”, is Ukraine’s fifth president since its independence, and the first to win an election with more than half the vote in a single round since 1991. He campaigned on the promise to bridge the east-west divide that has split the country over the past few months.

There are many who hope Poroshenko, a 48-year-old billionaire confectionary magnate, will bring an end to the most tumultuous period in Ukraine’s 22 years of independence.

FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg reports from Kiev on Poroshenko’s inauguration

More than 100 people were shot dead by police in Kiev in January and February in protests against former president, Viktor Yanukovich. After Yanukovich was ousted and fled to Russia, Putin declared his country’s right to intervene by force in Ukraine.

Moscow quickly annexed Ukraine’s Crimea region and massed troops on the border, while separatists occupied towns and strategic points across the east. Scores of people have since been killed in fighting.

The uprising in the east is not the only challenge facing Poroshenko, who inherits a country on the verge of bankruptcy, still dependent on Russia for natural gas and rated by watchdogs as one of the most corrupt and ill-governed states in Europe.

Poroshenko previously served in cabinets under both Yanukovich and the ousted leader’s foes, earning him a reputation for pragmatism that many Ukrainian voters saw as offering a chance to heal divisions. He won nearly 55 percent of the vote in a field of 21 candidates, against less than 13 percent for his closest rival.

He was also the first Ukrainian presidential candidate since 1991 to win both in the mainly Ukrainian-speaking west and in the Russian-speaking east, despite the separatists having prevented most voting in two eastern provinces where they have declared independent “people’s republics”.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)
 

Date created : 2014-06-07

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