Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy took the oath of office on Monday and immediately announced plans to dissolve parliament, setting up a clash between the country’s entrenched political class and its new leader. Zelenskiy, a comedian with no prior political experience, won a landslide victory in elections last month, amid anger over corruption and a grinding war with Russian-backed separatists in the country’s south-east. By calling snap elections, Zelenskiy hopes to quickly extend his political momentum to the legislature and sweep out loyalists to the former president Petro Poroshenko.
Results from nearly all polling stations show that TV star Volodymyr Zelenskiy has won the Ukrainian presidential runoff vote in a landslide. The Central Election Commission says Monday that Zelenskiy has won 73% of the vote while the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko got just 24% support with more than 95% of the ballots counted. Unlike in most of the elections in Ukraine’s post-Soviet history, Zelenskiy appears to have won both in Ukraine’s west and east, areas that have been traditionally polarized.
A comedian with no political experience raced ahead in Ukraine’s presidential election on Sunday, offering a fresh face to voters fed up with entrenched corruption in a country on the frontline of the West’s standoff with Russia. Exit polls and early counting put 41-year-old Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays a fictional president in a popular TV series, comfortably ahead of incumbent President Petro Poroshenko in the first round, though short of a majority. No candidate is expected to receive more than half the votes, meaning the election would go to a runoff on April 21. Out of a crowded field of 39 candidates, none of the likely winners wants to move Ukraine back into Russia’s orbit.
After a naval confrontation off Crimea with Russia, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko asked NATO to send ships to the Sea of Azov. At least 11 Russian vessels surrounded Ukraine’s two ships opening fire on Sunday. Russia announced on Wednesday it will send another advanced anti-aircraft system to the area. NATO expressed ‘full support’ for Ukraine.
Ukraine’s parliament has agreed to impose martial law in 10 of its provinces to combat “growing aggression from Russia,” after a weekend confrontation in waters off the disputed Crimean Peninsula led Russia to seize three Ukrainian navy vessels. The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Monday with a “warning” to Ukraine that naval conflict in the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea “is fraught with serious consequences.”
Nato has joined a chorus of Western calls for Russia and Ukraine to show restraint as the UN security council prepares to meet amid a dangerous new crisis between the countries and fears of a wider military escalation. Russia reopened the Kerch strait separating Crimea from the Russian mainland early on Monday after its FSB security service said border patrol boats had fired on and seized three Ukrainian naval ships a day earlier, wounding several crew members.
More than 12,000 people were evacuated following an explosion on Tuesday at a depot in northern Ukraine caused by ammunition. Security services said ‘possible sabotage’ was being investigated at the depot near the village of Druzhba. More than 60 people needed medical attention after the explosion, though no deaths were reported.