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Petro Poroshenko plans new Ukraine team to take on Vladimir Putin, build ties with West

Jun 09 2014, 11:15 IST
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SummaryUkraine's newly-installed President Petro Poroshenko is set to remake a governing team which will handle the crisis with Russia, with talks on gas prices on Monday providing an early test of his new relationship with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Ukraine's newly-installed President Petro Poroshenko is set to remake a governing team which will handle the crisis with Russia, with talks on gas prices on Monday providing an early test of his new relationship with Russia's Vladimir Putin.

Petro Poroshenko's swearing-in as president at a pomp-filled, but relaxed, ceremony on Saturday conveyed the feeling that a line had been drawn under six months of unprecedented and bloody upheaval which toppled his predecessor, Viktor Yanukovich.

But behind the euphoria that Ukraine might now, at last, start to "Live in a new way", as Petro Poroshenko's campaign slogan has promised, lies the reality of seething separatism in the east in which Ukraine sees Moscow's hand, and Russia's opposition to his plans to lead Ukraine into mainstream Europe.

Poroshenko's blunt refusal to accept the loss of Crimea in a combative inaugural speech puts him further at odds with Putin.

An indication of whether Putin is ready to give the 48-year-old businessman-politician some early breaks or test him in his first days in office may come in trilateral talks in Brussels on Monday aimed at solving a dispute over the price of Russian gas.

Russia has threatened to cut off supplies to its neighbour, a major gas transit route to the European Union, if it fails to pay its debts to Gazprom by Tuesday.

In early steps to install key allies, Poroshenko is expected in the coming days to name new foreign and defence ministers.

The rebellions, in which pro-Russian separatists have declared "people's republics", have claimed scores of lives in clashes between government forces and armed militias. Militia leaders declared on Saturday they would not give up their fight.

These are not the only challenges facing Poroshenko. He inherits a country on the verge of bankruptcy which is rated by monitoring agencies as one of Europe's most corrupt and ill-governed.

CRIMEA

Poroshenko, a billionaire from a confectionery business with big experience in government, says he is pen-poised to sign an association and trade agreement this month with the EU.

His pledge to stick to West-leaning policies was quickly rewarded in the shape of aid worth $48 million from Washington to go towards economic reform.

The EU agreement - which Yanukovich spurned, sparking street protests that finally drove him from office - will take Ukraine into a free-trade zone with the European Union, thwarting Putin's ambition of keeping Kiev in his sphere of influence.

Putin, who is under

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