Ukraine’s presidency has been claimed by Petro Poroshenko after exit polls gave him an absolute majority of more than 55 percent in the first round of voting.
If that figure is confirmed by definitive results, there will be no need for a runoff vote in June.
Pro-EU Poroshenko says he will never recognise the Crimean referendum.
But his first priority, he said, was to end the “war and chaos” in eastern Ukraine. He vowed to negotiate and offer amnesty to those who laid down their weapons.
“The number one issue is that Ukraine will never recognize the illegitimate referendum and will never recognize the occupation of Crimea. And the strategic choice for the development of our country has been made by the Ukrainian people. Today, on May 25, in the first round the people have made their choice. And that choice is European integration,” Poroshenko said in an acceptance speech.
Poroshenko’s 55 percent is well ahead of his nearest challenger, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko who claimed second place with more than 12 percent.
Tymoshenko appeared briefly to accept defeat by a long-time rival.
Ukrainians, weary of six months of political turmoil, hope their new president will be able to pull the country of 45 million people back from the brink of bankruptcy, dismemberment and civil war that prevented voting in parts of the Russian-speaking east.
“All the polls show that the election has been completed in one round and the country has a new president,” Poroshenko added.