He may be president of Ukraine but in the east of the country Petro Poroshenko will struggle to impose his authority.
Since his election victory on May 25 Poroshenko has been urging the Ukrainian army to smash what he calls pro-Russian “terrorists” on Ukrainian soil, while insisting he is sensitive to the region’s longstanding demands for more autonomy from Kyiv.
“I hope the president can succeed. He’s promised his priority will be to stabilise eastern Donetsk and Luhansk. It won’t be easy. We hope he makes the right decisions,” said one Luhansk man.
“The president has the ability to stop everything. he should open a dialogue with people in the east and listen to their real appeals. But frankly I think it’s too late, as so many people have died. I don’t know who can settle the current contradictions,” was one woman’s opinion.
Russia’s ambassador, withdrawn after Viktor Yanukovych was toppled, has returned in a sign President Putin may be weakening Moscow’s support for the rebels, but dozens of Russian and other nationals remain in Ukraine ready to fight, and Poroshenko says he will not negotiate with gunmen.
He has however offered to create a security corridor out of Ukraine to allow what he calls “mercenaries” to leave the country, but has coupled that offer with a repeated demand for rebels to lay down their arms.