Inspite of having no political experience, a comedian Volodymyr Zelensky who plays the country’s president on a TV show, has won Ukraine’s presidential election in a landslide, according to a national exit poll. The poll showed Zelensky receiving 73% of the vote, sweeping away Ukraine’s incumbent president, Petro Poroshenko, who conceded defeat.
Russia says it wants him to show "sound judgement", "honesty" and "pragmatism" so that relations can improve. Russia backs separatists in eastern Ukraine. The result places a 41-year-old political novice at the head of Ukraine, one of the poorest countries in Europe, which exists on a fault-line in the stand-off between the West and Russia. Ukraine is still locked in a war with Russia that has killed 13,000 people since 2014.
At a campaign party in a bar in Kiev, packed with hundreds of journalists, Zelensky declared victory. "I will never let you down," Mr Zelensky told celebrating supporters. Speaking to journalists and a handful of supporters in the bar, Zelensky hailed his win as a symbol of political change for other countries in the region. "I’m not yet officially the president, but as a citizen of Ukraine, I can say to all countries in the post-Soviet Union look at us. Anything is possible!"
He told reporters he would "reboot" peace talks with the separatists fighting Ukrainian forces and volunteers in the east.
"I think that we will have personnel changes. In any case we will continue in the direction of the Minsk Peace talks and head towards concluding a ceasefire," he said.
There are sporadic skirmishes and the situation also remains tense around Crimea, annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014.
Mr Poroshenko, who admitted defeat after the first exit polls were published, has said he will not be leaving politics.
He told voters that Mr Zelensky, 41, was too inexperienced to stand up to Russia effectively.
Zelensky’s victory comes amid deep dissatisfaction among Ukrainians with their political establishment and weariness with the war. He ran promising to fight corruption and upend the political elite, which is viewed as corrupt and indifferent to the concerns of ordinary Ukrainians.
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