News / Europe

New Ukraine President Seeks End to Violence

Poroshenko Assumes Presidency of Conflict-Torn Ukrainei
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Gabe Joselow
June 07, 2014 7:36 PM
Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko is sworn in as the country's new president Saturday and offers to hold negotiations to end a pro-Russian insurgency in the east. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from Kyiv.
VIDEO: Ukraine's Petro Poroshenko is sworn in as the country's new president Saturday and offers to hold negotiations to end a pro-Russian insurgency in the east. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from Kyiv.
Gabe Joselow
In his first address as Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko declared that Crimea "is, was and will be Ukrainian."
 
The billionaire businessman took the oath of office in Kyiv Saturday, in front of parliament, world leaders and dignitaries including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appears in Sophia Square, Kyiv, June 7, 2014.Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appears in Sophia Square, Kyiv, June 7, 2014.
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Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appears in Sophia Square, Kyiv, June 7, 2014.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko appears in Sophia Square, Kyiv, June 7, 2014.


Poroshenko — Ukraine's fifth president since the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union — said in his inaugural address that he will not accept Russia's annexation of Crimea. Moscow sent troops to the Black Sea peninsula earlier this year and took control of it in March.
 
The new Ukrainian leader also pledged to open a dialogue with countrymen in eastern regions where pro-Russian separatists have clashed with Ukrainian forces.
 
He offered amnesty to fighters who lay down their arms and offered to negotiate an end to the violence.
 
Petro Poroshenko
 
  • Born in 1965 in Bohlrad, near the southwestern city of Odessa
  • Known as the 'Chocolate King' for his ownership of the Roshen confectionery business
  • One of Ukraine's richest men, worth at least $1.3 billion
  • Served in parliament and as foreign minister and economic and development minister
  • Worked with both pro-Russian and pro-European political factions
  • Was a key figure in the 2004 Orange Revolution
  • Was first Ukrainian billionaire to support anti-government protests in 2013
  • Won 55% of the vote in 2014 presidential elections

"I want peace and I will bring unity to Ukraine," Poroshenko said. "That's why I'm starting my work with a peace plan."
 
Poroshenko addressed eastern Ukrainians directly in a section of his speech in Russian. He promised a decentralization of power, respect for local communities as well as new regional elections.
 
Poroshenko has already held brief talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin about a possible cease-fire. They spoke Friday in France, during ceremonies commemorating the World War II battle of D-Day 70 years ago.
 
Many Ukrainians blame Russia for fueling violence in the east, where Russian fighters have been seen among rebels battling Ukrainian government troops. Moscow has repeatedly denied it is directing the rebels or has supplied their modern military equipment.
 
Meanwhile, Putin reportedly ordered the Federal Security Service to beef up protection of Russia's border with Ukraine. On Saturday, Russian news agencies said the move aims to prevent illegal crossings into Ukraine.
 
U.S. shows support

Biden attended the morning inauguration ceremony with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, and several other officials and lawmakers. Later in the day, he announced the U.S. is offering Ukraine an additional $48 million to help Kiyv enact reforms, build law enforcement capacity, and strengthen national unity. The U.S. also pledged $8 million to Moldova and $5 million to Moldova. The extra aid must be approved by Congress.
 
The White House said Saturday that such activities complement long-term U.S. assistance programs designed to support reforms and build institutional capacity across a range of sectors.
 
After the ceremony, Biden passed up a motorcade to stroll a couple of blocks to a presidential reception at St. Sophia cathedral. He set off with U.S. Sen. John McCain, soon joined by the rest of the delegation.
 
As they walked, crowds lined the way. Some people applauded and yelled "thank you" and "USA."
 
At St. Sophia, Poroshenko stood on a red carpet, flanked by Ukrainian flags. He and Biden spoke quietly for a couple minutes before posing for photos. McCain came next, greeting Poroshenko with a hug.
 
Sens. Chris Murphy and Ron Johnson and Rep. Marcy Kaptur greeted Poroshenko together. "It’s wonderful to stand with you," Murphy told the new president.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was visiting his ancestral home in Saint Briac-Sur-Mer, France, where he expressed the hope that, "in the next few days, we can see some steps taken that will reduce the tensions."

Kerry said such measures offered "the possibility of a cease-fire, the possibility of Russia helping to be able to get the separatists to begin to put their guns away, get out of buildings and begin to build Ukraine."
 
Poroshenko under microscope
 
Poroshenko's supporters and critics are watching to see how he will engage with Putin and others.
 
Taras, a Kyiv resident standing outside St. Sophia's Cathedral with his wife and infant son, said he thinks dialogue is the way forward.
 
Poroshenko “has to negotiate with Putin,” he said, “because only by negotiations can we find a solution." The new president, Taras said, "should demolish the terrorists and restore order in the country.”
 
In restive eastern Ukraine, Denis Pushilyn, head of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic’s Supreme Council, dismissed the prospect of peace talks without concessions by the central government.
 
"After they withdraw military forces from our territory, after we exchange hostages and prisoners of war from both sides... then maybe a dialogue with Poroshenko will be possible," the Associated Press reported Pushilyn as saying shortly after the inauguration speech.
 
Pushilyn said the new president was unwelcome in eastern Ukraine, adding, “We did not elect him.”
 
Poroshenko was elected by a wide margin in May, rising to power on a wave of nationalism that followed the ousting of his Russian-backed predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, during protests in February.
 
A business perspective
 
The 48-year-old first came to prominence in Ukraine as a businessman, earning billions from his chain of Roshen candy stores.
 
Archbishop Stephan of Ukraine's Orthodox Church said he wonders if Poroshenko's money will get in the way of his ability to lead the people.
 
If Poroshenko “can be replanted into a position where he takes care of other people instead of his business, will he succeed?" the archbishop asked, adding, "I don't know. But we will pray that he will.”
 
Ukraine has long been divided between the pro-Russian east and the Europe-leaning west.
 
Poroshenko already has promised greater economic and diplomatic ties with Europe, a move that could anger Moscow and complicate his efforts to unite the country.
 
VO White House reporter Luis Ramirez contributed to this report. Some information was provided by Reuters, the Associated Press and AFP.

 
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by: Godwin from: Nigeria
June 07, 2014 11:45 AM
I think Petro Poroshenko must be making a grave mistake saying he wants to retrieve Crimea. Did he make his consultations before making that statement? Seems he was overwhelmed by the euphoria of winning a presidency. When the chips are down, we shall see where it goes. Or would he use part of his enormous wealth to buy his way through? I think he can bribe Putin over, after all nothing seems impossible anymore in a world where money answers all things.

But saying "We are people... torn away from our big motherland, Europe... we are... coming back to it", does Poroshenko unilaterally exclude Russia from Europe? Belonging to Europe and belonging to European Union are not the same thing. For primordially Russia is Europe, just like Ukraine. It is the desire to exclude and bypass some countries and peoples out there that the union has been created. All the incentives have been geared towards drawing people away from what the progenitors of the European Union see as enemy territory. This is intrinsically wrong. At the sidelines of the D-Day, you say, Russia meets with USA and Ukraine. What is baffling in the present arrangement is that Russia fought with all its resources and restored peace to the world after the first and second world wars, only to be sidelined, while those who fought and wanted to destroy the world - I am talking about Germany and Japan (we have not forgotten that it was the drop of hydrogen bomb in twin cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that forced Tokyo to its knees and ended the war) - are cuddled and embraced as if to say Russia's contribution was in error. What a way to show ingratitude!

But it brings the worst out of president Putin. His lack of pragmatism and aggression is bringing a lot of insult on Kremlin. I read that both USA and EU want Russia to start immediate dialogue with Kiev. I wish Putin was like a Nigerian former musician, former Afrobeat king Fela Anikulapo Kuti. When he was faced with such humiliating diplomacy, he had to respond with a counter question. The story is that he landed in this foreign airport, and on suspicion he might be carrying one of those banned substances or did he use them, he was asked to present a specimen urine for lab test. Fela looked at the officers making the demand and retorted, "to piss na by force?" To start dialogue with Ukraine, is it by forces? Putin should rise to his feet and defend the position of Russia as a superpower and stop being subservient to so-called western unions. No one should order Russia around the way it is today, as no one ordered USA to stop annexing Mexican regions, or to stop the pursuit of its rights in Afghanistan and Iraq. I think now is the time for Russia to start rebuilding the blocks of its lost glory which it was deceived to drop at the collapse of the Berlin walls. It must have thought then was end of the cold war. Now it should understand it was the beginning of the real war of separation and isolation - of Russia!

by: Kenneth Loadburp from: UK
June 07, 2014 11:07 AM
So big thanks are still owed to the Russians/Soviets who, however brutal and murderous, really won the war in Europe and went on to destroyed 450,000 Japanese troops. At least 12 million Soviet soldiers died so sparing the lives of Allies soldiers.

Intelligent grownups talk to their rivals and enemies. For example, if the US and Britain had agreed to talk peace terms with the German generals in 1944, or at least backed their coup again Hitler, the war might well have ended a year earlier.

Which brings me to Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, the US Army prisoner of war in Afghanistan freed by Taliban. As a former US Regular Army soldier, I say President Obama did the right thing by exchanging Bergdahl for five senior-level Taliban prisoners of war held in the US Guantanamo gulag in violation of international law and the Geneva Convention.

President Obama is now the target of furious denunciations by pro-war Republicans and Democrats, few of whose children ever served in the military. “We’ll never negotiate with terrorists” went their mindless mantra.

They ludicrously claim the five released Taliban commanders released into Qatar’s custody are somehow a threat to the mighty United States.

What was really happening was that President Obama was finally winding down the foolish , 12-year Afghan War begun by President George W. Bush who needed a target for America’s anger after the humiliating 9/11 attacks that caught the White House sleeping on guard duty.

Afghanistan joins Iraq as America’s second lost war: 22,000 US dead and wounded, emotionally damaged soldiers, hundreds of thousands of deaths in Afghanistan and $1 trillion down the drain. Both wars were waged on money borrowed from China and Japan, leaving the US with a mammoth foreign debt.

Contrary to all the pro-war propaganda we have heard, Taliban was founded as an anti-Communist religious movement dedicated to ending mass rape of Afghan women, lawlessness, and runaway drug production. I know this because I was there. Taliban had nothing to do with 9/11, nothing to do with “terrorism” It was funded by Pakistan’s intelligence agency and Interior Ministry.

Taliban offered to turn inconvenient guest Osama bin Laden to another Muslim nation for trial once the US presented a proper extradition request. Washington never did, preferring war. The men who attacked New York and Washington were mostly Saudis. The plot was hatched in Hamburg and Madrid. We still don’t know really how much bin Laden was involved.

We have developed the pernicious habit of branding anyone who tried to oppose our world domination as a “terrorist.” This has boxed us into a propaganda corner: by so demonizing our enemies we deny ourselves the ability to negotiate with them. The “we’ll never deal with terrorists” uproar among some of the lower IQ members of the US Congress and their media allies is a doleful example of such illogical behavior.

The truly guilty parties for the bloodbath and lost war in Afghanistan are former President George W. Bush, the Congress and media, all of whom rushed America into an unnecessary war in a part of the world unknown to US policy makers. Few predicted that the world’s greatest power would break its teeth on the mountains of Afghanistan.

In October, 2001, I wrote in the Los Angeles Times that the US would never win a war against the Afghan Pashtun warriors, and that the US should negotiate with Taliban. The wrong war against the wrong people, I warned, in a little country rightly known as the “Graveyard of Empires.”
In Response

by: Salvation Rose from: Pennsylvania
June 07, 2014 4:21 PM
This fellow is absolutely on target....and accurate in every detail...I heartily applaud such commentary....and hope to see more of it....

I heard John McCain apologize to the Taliban when he ran for president and said he was sorry for how the CIA and the US had broken all their promises to them after they defeated the USSR; no one else caught it...I did.....

by: Ukrea from: USA
June 07, 2014 11:06 AM
Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin were ships passing in the night while in Paris for the G-7 meeting.

The American president reportedly refused to dine with Putin, who was being hosted by France’s president Francois Hollande as part of the D-Day commemoration.

So Hollande, who is on a diet after being called a “little fat man” by former president Nicholas Sarkozy, was forced to host two back-to-back dinners, the first for Obama and the second, delicately described in French as a “souper,” or smaller supper, for Vlad Putin, who is not anyway a big eater or drinker.

How remarkably childish and silly all this was. Obama and America’s European allies are cold-shouldering Putin for re-absorbing Crimea into Russia, to which it had belonged for 300 years, and for stirring the pot in eastern Ukraine. Meanwhile, US military forces are in action or based in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Djibouti, the Philippines, Yemen, Somalia, Uganda, Central African Republic, Colombia, Kenya, Europe, South Korea, Japan – in fact, around the globe.

In Paris, the leading European NATO members met separately with President Putin while Washington continued its big snub. The EU’s economy is too involved with Russia to indulge in political theatrics.

Canada, run by a far-right evangelical government, played to its large ethnic Ukrainian population by huffing and puffing at Russia. Ukraine must be free, thundered Ottawa – while at the same time playing to Canada’s Jewish urban vote by scolding Palestinians they had no right to their own independent state.

What makes this schoolyard tiff in Paris even more churlish, D-Day, hailed by westerners as the decisive battle that defeated National Socialist Germany, would never have succeeded were it not for Stalin’s Soviet Red Army.

Some 75% of the once mighty German Wehrmacht and Luftwaffe were destroyed by the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front: 607 German and Axis divisions, 48,000 German tanks, 77,000 German warplanes.

The shattered German forces met by the Americans, British and Canadians at Normandy were reduced to 40% of effective strength. They were immobilized by lack of fuel and had no air cover to protect them from 24-hour Allied carpet bombing and strafing. It was amazing the battered Germans could fight at all, or so hard. Had the Allied landing met the Germans of 1940, they would have been pushed into the Channel.

by: Donald Fraser Miles from: Elliot Lake, Canada
June 07, 2014 9:19 AM
Poroshenko would be best to focus on the problems in his East inside Ukraine. The Russians need a secure naval port in Crimea. Crimea is lost. Terms should be reached on eastern Ukraine. This might enable Ukraine to pursue a pro-European political alignment. It won't enable Ukraine to pursue a pro-NATO strategy. Fighting to regain Crimea is a lost cause and would compromise any possible peace with Russia over Ukraine's direction.

by: gen from: Japan
June 07, 2014 8:18 AM
The president Ukraine Mr.Porchenko should calm down the east part of Ukraine.You don't need the time to feel happy to be the president.Ukraine stupid so called antiterrorists operation let the people go out of the country as refugees.About 12,000 Ukraine people seems to get away from the city to Russian city.Then Ukraine government stiil continue to opress the people for uniting such a poor country?

by: Igor from: Russia
June 07, 2014 5:46 AM
Poroshenko needs to accept the fact that Crimea was, is and will be part of Russia territory. It is high time for Poroshenko to listen to the will of Crimea people.

by: Vannak from: Usa
June 07, 2014 1:11 AM
fighting can not solve the problems.Ukrain new president right if stop sent troop to east. Pease sit down for better solution. Ukrain can not got the way of Georgie. The west can not help U . Final autonomie better than independent .
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