Vladimir Putin, Ukraine prez Petro Poroshenko in likely face-off on Crimea

Jun 07 2014, 15:57 IST
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SummaryUkraine's new president Petro Poroshenko warned Russian President Vladimir Putin ...

Ukraine's new president Petro Poroshenko warned Russian President Vladimir Putin his country would never give up Crimea and would not compromise on its path towards closer ties with Europe, in his inaugural speech on Saturday to send a defiant message.

The 48-year-old billionaire took the oath of office before parliament, buoyed by Western support but facing an immediate crisis in relations with Russia as a separatist uprising seethes in the east of his country.

Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula in March, weeks after street protests ousted Poroshenko's pro-Moscow predecessor, in a move that has provoked the deepest crisis in relations with the West since the Cold War.

"Citizens of Ukraine will never enjoy the beauty of peace unless we settle down our relations with Russia. Russia occupied Crimea, which was, is, and will be Ukrainian soil," Poroshenko said in a speech that was greeted with a standing ovation.

He had told this to Russia's Vladimir Putin when the two met on Friday at a World War Two anniversary ceremony in France, he said.

Poroshenko, who earned his fortune as a confectionery entrepreneur and is known locally as the "Chocolate King", said he intended very soon to sign the economic part of an association agreement with the European Union, as a first step towards full membership.

This idea is anathema to Moscow, which wants to keep Ukraine in its own post-Soviet sphere of influence.

His voice swelling with emotion, Poroshenko stressed the need for a united Ukraine and the importance of ending the conflict that threatens to further split the country of 45 million people. He said it would not become a looser federalised state, as advocated by Russia.

"There can be no trade-off about Crimea and about the European choice and about the governmental system. All other things can be negotiated and discussed at the negotiation table. Any attempts at internal or external enslavement of Ukraine will meet with resolute resistance," Poroshenko said.

Cheering crowds later greeted him on a walkabout in blazing sunshine on the square in front of Kiev's St Sophia's Cathedral, which was decked with the blue and yellow national flag.

EASTERN WAR ZONE

Since Poroshenko's election, government forces have begun an intensified campaign against the separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine who want to split with Kiev and become part of Russia.

The rebels have fought back, turning parts of the east into a war zone. On Friday they shot

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