Ukraine's projected new president Petro Poroshenko welcomed his victory Monday by pledging to speed up operations to quell pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. New violence erupted in the region today, as an air strike was carried out on militants near the Donetsk airport.
Poroshenko, the billionaire candy-maker who is widely projected to have won Sunday's election outright, says he won't negotiate with "the criminals" who have seized buildings and erected barricades in Ukraine's restive east.
From Kiev, NPR's Peter Kenyon reports for our Newscast unit:
"Exit poll data project a sweeping first-round victory for petro Poroshenko, seen by many Ukrainians as their best hope of pulling Ukraine out of a crisis that threatens to tear it apart. As he claimed victory, Poroshenko acknowledged the importance of Ukraine's powerful neighbor.
" 'Russia is our neighbor, and without Russia it would be much less effective or almost impossible to speak about the security in the whole region,' he said."
"Poroshenko displayed no tolerance, though, for pro-Russian militants who kept 80 percent of polling stations closed in the east, saying as commander-in-chief it would be his job to bring peace to the region."
And he plans to act quickly. According to the Kyiv Post, Poroshenko said, "The anti-terrorist operation will not and cannot last for months, it will last just for hours."
In response to the election, Russia says it is ready to hold pragmatic talks about Ukraine's future.
"We hear what Petro Poroshenko is saying in relation to his aims in relation to the Russian Federation that they are the most important," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, according to the Kyiv Post. "We, as President Vladimir Putin has stated more than once, are ready for dialogue with Kyiv, with Petro Poroshenko."
Ukraine's military carried out airstrikes against militants at the Donetsk international airport today. From Reuters:
"Reuters journalists saw black smoke billowing from the area of the airport after about two hours of repeated explosions and gunfire, while jets roared overhead. A security official also said that paratroops had landed in one of the fiercest clashes since violence broke out in the east two months ago."
Two Sukhoi Su-25 jets and a MiG-29 fighter jet took part in the operation in the area of Sergei Prokofiev International Airport, the news agency says, citing government spokesmen.