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UPDATED: June 4, 2014 NO. 23 JUNE 5, 2014
A Semicolon, Not a Full Stop
Ukraine's new president faces big challenges in managing both domestic affairs and relations with Russia
By Yu Lintao

VICTORY: Ukrainian presidential candidate Petro Poroshenko (center) attends a press conference in Kiev on May 26. Preliminary official results put Poroshenko clearly ahead in the nation's presidential election (XINHUA)

Ukrainian candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko's presidential election victory was unsurprising. What did come as a surprise, however, was that it happened in the first round of voting. The result has been welcomed by both the West and Russia. Although the East European country is currently in the midst of being torn apart, the West at least salvaged the basic fruit of the Ukrainian mess by securing a pro-West president.

Russia, for its part, felt that compared with other pro-West Ukrainian politicians, the flexible and pragmatic Poroshenko couldn't be a better choice. Meanwhile, as Ukraine has reestablished its legitimate governing authority via an election, Moscow may find an opening to start direct talks with Kiev. In any case, it is an opportunity to usher in a turn for the deadlock.

However, in face of the serious row between Moscow and Kiev over Ukraine's future direction and the issue of Crimea, talks will demand political wisdom from both sides.

Compared with his previous life as the so-called "candy tycoon," Poroshenko's new career will be much more difficult, especially given the current situation in Ukraine.

Li Xing, a professor of international studies at Beijing Normal University, claimed that Poroshenko's seemingly neutral stance toward the West and Russia helped Poroshenko win the election; still, the Ukraine's new president faces a sea of difficulties both domestically and abroad.

A tough task

"The struggling economy, mounting conflicts in the eastern part of the country, and starting difficult talks with Russia are all tough tasks for Poroshenko," said Ding Xiaoxing, a senior researcher on Russian and East European studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR).

Ding claimed Poroshenko's prime task should be easing tensions in the eastern states to prevent further national divisions.

The Ukrainian Government intensified military strikes on the anti-government paramilitary in Lugansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine following the election. Recent clashes in the rebellious Donetsk region have resulted in the deaths of more than 100 people, including civilians.

Ding said the increasing military strikes are not conducive to the settlement of the issue but may instead invite a serious response from Russia.

The economic situation of Ukraine is also worrying. In light of the current political crisis and deepening economic instability, international credit rating organization Moody's recently announced that Ukraine would face the largest GDP contraction in the Commonwealth of Independence States region, with a projected decline of around 5-10 percent in 2014. Not long ago, Moody's downgraded Ukraine's government bond rating one notch from Caa2 to Caa3.

Ding said Poroshenko's first-round victory shows that most Ukrainian people hope the business tycoon's practical style can bring the country stability and economic revival.

However, as the Ukrainian economy heavily relies on Russia and the oligopoly, observers doubted a breakthrough could be made quickly in the current situation.

In addition, Ding noted that as Poroshenko himself is a member of Ukraine's oligarchic group, it is more difficult for him to change the current system.

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