Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko has visited eastern Ukraine, the stronghold of his election rival, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.

Happy supporters and hostile opponents greeted the Ukrainian leader as he arrived in Donetsk Thursday for a brief visit.

Mr. Yushchenko said he was in the mining region for a friendly visit, decried the economic problems facing the area, and pledged to help improve the lives of citizens. He also introduced the region's new governor, Vadym Chuprun.

Most area residents backed Mr. Yanukovych in last year's presidential election.

Some politicians even suggested autonomy for eastern Ukraine as the country dealt with months of political uncertainty before and after a flawed November presidential election.

Mr. Yushchenko went on to win a court-ordered re-vote in December, but was not officially declared the winner until January, while the Supreme Court reviewed election complaints from Mr. Yanukovych.

Some information for this report provided by AP and AFP.