Ukraine’s president-elect promises stepped-up response to separatists

Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine’s presumptive president-elect and billionaire businessman, is not in charge yet, but he has pledged to go after armed separatist fighters and to reunite the badly fractured country. Meanwhile in Donetsk, heavily-armed Pro-Russian militia seized an airport. Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner reports from Kiev on the challenges ahead.

Read the Full Transcript


    The winner of yesterday's Ukrainian election had no time today to bask in the light of victory, as heavy fighting broke out in the country's east.

    Chief foreign affairs correspondent Margaret Warner is in the capital, Kiev, and she filed this report.


    Ukraine's presumptive president-elect, billionaire businessman Petro Poroshenko, strode into a late-morning press conference in Kiev with a daunting lead in the partial vote count, and delivered starkly different messages for Russia and for the separatists in Ukraine who claim allegiance to Moscow.

    Standing next to Kiev's newly elected mayor, a Maidan uprising leader and former prizefighter Vitali Klitschko, Poroshenko said his first trip as president would be to the east, seeking to reunite the badly fractured country.

    Yet he pledged to go after the armed separatist fighters who have taken over parts of the industrial region known as the Donbass, where intimidation and attacks on election sites kept turnout in the area below 20 percent yesterday.


    They just murder. They're just bandits. They're just a killer. They're just a terrorist.


    Poroshenko, who isn't in charge yet, nonetheless vowed that the Kiev security forces' so-called anti-terrorist operations would be stepped up in the coming hours.


    They don't have any interest to speak with nobody, the same way like Somalian pirates. These people are representing nobody. These people just want to — everyone afraid of them. That's only way how they can survive. Don't give them any chance, because we will fight, but for the trust of the people of Donbass.


    As he spoke, heavily armed militia of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic had seized Donetsk Airport. Pitched fighting continued throughout the afternoon. Reports from the scene said Ukrainian air force launched airstrikes, and the Defense Ministry said paratroopers had landed on the field.


    Concerning the relationship with Russia, please believe nothing changed during the night.


    Poroshenko's tone was a lot more measured though when he spoke of relating to Ukraine's largest and most influential neighbor, saying he expects to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the first half of June.


    Me and Mr. Putin know each other quite well, I think that would be immediately from the very first meeting the very important results, because people in the east are waiting for these results.


    Putin has recently toned down his rhetoric about Ukraine, and said he would respect the outcome of the election.

    In Moscow today, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said much the same, but he did not promise to help curb the separatists.

  • SERGEI LAVROV, Foreign Minister, Russia (through interpreter):

    As President Putin said a few times, we are ready for dialogue with Kiev representatives. We are also ready for dialogue with Petro Poroshenko. We will respect the will of the Ukrainian people. The most important thing for the current authorities is to treat their own citizens with respect. MARGARET WARNER: Among Ukrainians today and yesterday at the polls, we found noticeable support for tougher action in the east, even if it means loss of life.

    We spoke with Danylo Danielyko outside a Kiev polling place.

    Do you think that he should use greater military force to take back those areas in the east in which this Donetsk People's Republic has set up — has occupied buildings and taken over territory?

  • DANYLO DANIELYKO (through interpreter):

    Separatists should be eliminated, period.


    Even if they're Ukrainian?

  • DANYLO DANIELYKO (through interpreter):

    It's hard to say. Even if they're Ukrainian citizens, they are not true Ukrainians.


    Today, first-time voter Ivanna Bober said Poroshenko must follow words with action on many fronts.

  • IVANNA BOBERU (through interpreter):

    I have gone voting and I really want for better changes to happen in Ukraine, not with words and promises, but with real active changes, since young people have laid down their lives for this.


    Incoming Mayor Klitschko said today that, while those killed in the Maidan uprising here must be honored, the square needs to be cleared for normal life to return to the city. That didn't sit well with Aleksey Sotnik.

  • ALEKSEY SOTNIK (through interpreter):

    I will stand here until the end. For what did people die? For this new crowd to take their seats, and that's it? If they're starting to get rid of Maidan, then they are very mistaken.


    Only one of many challenges Poroshenko and his team face in the weeks to come.

Listen to this Segment