News / Europe

Ukraine's New President Faces Daunting Challenges

Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko speaks during anews conference in Kyiv, May 26, 2014.
Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko speaks during anews conference in Kyiv, May 26, 2014.
Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire businessman and politician, is scheduled to be sworn in as Ukraine’s president next week.
 
Andre DeNesnera reports on Ukraine's new president
Andre DeNesnera reports on Ukraine's new presidenti
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Experts say he will be tested immediately and will face daunting challenges.
 
The main one is how to end the violence in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, scene of fighting between armed separatists and the Ukrainian military. Poroshenko says his first visit as president will be to Donetsk.
 
  • A Ukrainian soldier prepares mines during a battle with pro-Russian separatist fighters, Slovyansk, June 6, 2014. 
  • Ukrainian soldiers take their position during a battle with pro-Russian separatist fighters at Slovyansk, June 6, 2014. 
  • Ukrainian servicemen stand guard at a checkpoint near the town of Amvrosievka, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, June 5, 2014.
  • Ukrainian servicemen stand guard at a checkpoint near the town of Amvrosievka, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, June 5, 2014.
  • People hold a combined Ukrainian-Crimean flag during a pro-Ukrainian rally in front of the parliament building in Kyiv, June 5, 2014.
  • An elderly woman gives flowers to Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko, chairman of the Ukrainian party Udar (Punch) during a rally near the city council in Kyiv, June 5, 2014.
  • Pro-Russian armed men walk in an entrance to a border guard base, which they seized, on the outskirts of Luhansk, Ukraine, June 4, 2014.
  • A pro-Russian rebel carries items seized from a Ukrainian border troops military unit in Luhansk, eastern Ukraine, June 4, 2014.
  • Ukrainian soldiers and a doctor carry a wounded soldier to a hospital in Izyum, near Slovyansk, Ukraine, June 3, 2014.
  • Damaged buildings are seen at a Ukrainian border guard camp, after what local residents say was an attack by pro-Russian separatists, on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk June 3, 2014.
  • A Ukrainian border post is seen through bullet holes in a truck's windscreen on the outskirts of the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk, June 3, 2014.

Former U.S. Ambassador Steven Pifer said Poroshenko “has an opportunity to go there and reach out and basically persuade people that he is going to listen to their concerns. And he is going to be cognizant that he is not going to be the president of only just western and central Ukraine, but he wants to be the president of all of Ukraine.”
 
Anders Aslund, with the Peterson Institute for International Economics, has known him for a decade.
 
“He gets along with everybody. He’s quite charismatic," Aslund said. "He is a very good executive. You can say that he’s center-right or a centrist. He has very few enemies. He’s a deal-maker and he has been a successful businessman by developing food processing, mainly chocolates in Ukraine.”
 
Poroshenko owns Ukraine’s biggest confectionary company, Roshen, as well as Channel Five - one of the most popular television stations in Ukraine and an affiliate of Voice of America.
 
He has other economic interests, including shipyards. His wealth is estimated at $1.3 billion, making him the seventh richest man in Ukraine.
 
Poroshenko also has had government experience, serving as foreign minister and trade minister. He was also a strong backer of the “Orange Revolution” that brought Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko to power in 2004.
 
And he played a leading role in the protests in Kyiv’s central square that toppled President Viktor Yanukovich in February.
 
Poroshenko is generally considered to be an oligarch.
 
But Steven Pifer, U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in the Clinton administration, said he is not an oligarch in the strict sense of the term.
 
“A lot of oligarchs got their start back in the early 1990s by taking advantage of the difference between the official prices and world prices. If you could buy a commodity - oil, or gas or something at an official price in Ukraine in the early 1990s, and somehow sell it at world prices, you could make a huge profit,” Pifer said.
 
“And I think Poroshenko actually made his money by hard work and just creative ideas and good business sense. He pursued a less normal route to becoming an oligarch,” he said.
 
Poroshenko was elected president of Ukraine with a decisive 55 percent of the vote - above the simple majority needed to avoid a run-off.
 
Besides dealing with separatists in the East, Poroshenko will need to balance his policy of forging closer ties with the European Union while improving relations with Russia, at a time when Moscow is trying to destabilize Ukraine.
 
Poroshenko said he will sign the association agreement with the European Union later this month - an accord that would, among other things, create a free trade zone between the EU and Ukraine.
 
Pifer said the main question is how Russian President Vladimir Putin will react if Poroshenko goes ahead with the signing.
 
“The major Russian pressure on the Ukrainian acting government in February came after it was clear that the acting government’s intent, after it took office, after Yanukovich fled, was to pursue the European Union option and to sign the association agreement,” Pifer said.
 
“And once that was clear, you had the seizure of Crimea, you had the barring of certain Ukrainian exports to Russia, you had the raising of gas prices, you had support for armed separatists in eastern Ukraine,” he said.
 
Pifer said for Russian President Vladimir Putin, the association agreement begins to move Ukraine outside Moscow’s sphere of interest - something he does not want to happen.
 
And he added that the world will have to wait and see what Putin will do - if anything - to prevent the signing.

Andre de Nesnera

Andre de Nesnera is senior analyst at the Voice of America, where he has reported on international affairs for more than three decades. Now serving in Washington D.C., he was previously senior European correspondent based in London, established VOA’s Geneva bureau in 1984 and in 1989 was the first VOA correspondent permanently accredited in the Soviet Union.

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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: sergei from: moscow
June 06, 2014 8:01 AM
And what is unclear is why the active opponents of Russia like the UK became home to Russian oligarchs like Abramovich, Berezovksy, Usmanov. These people own the industry of Russia. Is not strgane to oppose the country and actually own it?

by: Richard R D from: Mumbai - India
June 06, 2014 3:18 AM
I can that a crook like USA will on sniffing other people arse !!!. Come on usa sort out the issues ripping your ownbleeding back . Leave the world to take care of itself . USA and all it presidents should be tired in Hague fir war crimes and massaces of millions lives around the world . The whole world knows who are the real occupiers and imperialists. USA the modern day Hilter and the greatest bandits of all time .

by: garry r moore from: Ottawa, Canada
June 06, 2014 2:57 AM
G7 sanctions on Russia are too light.

There has been a lot of political rehetoric from G7 leaders while at the same time industries in these countries continue to do business with Russia.

Major factor pushing Russia into a recession is the huge capital flight. The European Central Bank says as much as €160 billion has fled Russia since the Ukrainian crisis erupted in November 2013. The combination of capital flight plus the lack of interest from western investors to invest in Russia has created a capital shortfall.

To avoid deeper and wider sanctions Putin has pulled back some of the 40,000 Russian troops from the Ukraine border BUT has arranged for Chechen, Cossacks, Crimean and other Russian mercenaries to cross into eastern Ukraine to direct and support the pro-Russian rebels. Russian Vostok Battalion would not be in the eastern Ukraine without the full knowledge and blessing of Putin. It is clearly a Russian invasion by proxy.

Putin is counting on that his clandestine war will not trigger additional G 7 sanctions and this strategy appears to be working as the G7 has naively elected not to impose a 3rd level of sanctions.

For the G7 to take the pressure off Putin is a HUGE mistake - he will do nothing to block the inflow of Russian mercenaries and arms into eastern Ukraine - Putin will talk peace while his proxies continue to tear eastern Ukraine apart.

G7 needs to defend the Ukraine NOW while they can before Putin takes over the eastern regions in addition to the Crimea.

Moore, Garry R - Solutions Inc
In Response

by: Richard R D from: Mumbai - India
June 06, 2014 5:58 AM
The ukranians are very shortly going to wintness another maidan .
Pitty those innocent ignorant people of the maidan .
The will soon discover the beast and satanic ideals of USA vety soon .
Ukranians are going to pay a huge huge collossal price for walking the american /e u / imf pathway by ignoringbig brother russia .
When the truth bites the ukrainians it will be too late to find a warm fire to heat up the poor ukranian freezing ass .just for a few 100 euros and free visa to eu , it not worth another maidan and hungry tummy left in the cold .
USA /IMF will molest ukraine endlessly .
In Response

by: Richard R D from: Mumbai - India
June 06, 2014 5:48 AM
Dear Garry .
So naive off you . P.s . USA snd it economy got busted during the first stinct of clinton and war the only option to kerp your industries running .
The US clearly understands the above ie is their war monging policy of theirs is their only way of sustainence .
Their greed to steal oil and gas from stupid dumb arab world and mid east countries. The greatest lie on earth is that USA has great gas reserves . infact the reserves they have is insufficient for their own needs . hence they use their military might to plunder small weak nations and group up with european union to steal loot impoverished east european and balkans for their there dire deficiencies in their energy and commodity needs.
3 questions .
What would happen if all the asian countries and russia disown and refuse yo use the $ as common curency for their intl trade.
What will be the result is asia decides to sanction USA products.
Jews die in plague epidemic

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