Ukraine comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy set to win presidential election, exit polls show

Ukraine comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy set to win presidential election, exit polls show

Ukraine comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy set to win presidential election, exit polls show

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said on his Facebook page on Monday morning that the election results in Ukraine show "there is a chance to improve the relations with our country after all".

Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelensky has won a run-off election to become the country's next president by a landslide, exit polls suggest.

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 96% of the ballots counted.

US State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said that Zelensky's victory showed Ukraine's "vibrant democracy" after "five years of unrelenting Russian aggression".

On Monday, Zelensky's first full day as Ukraine's real-life president-elect, his aides acknowledged that reality is more complicated.

Kyiv's pursuit of closer ties with the West and the European Union was the trigger for Ukraine's ongoing conflict with Russia, which developed into a war along the border that culminated with the controversial annexation of the Crimean peninsula, as well as Russian incursion into Ukraine's separatist eastern provinces in 2014.

Zelenskiy said on Sunday he planned to continue European-backed talks with Russian Federation on a so-far largely unimplemented peace deal and would try to free Ukrainians imprisoned in Russian Federation, including 24 sailors. The difference is that Russia's rulers are better positioned than Ukraine's to thwart this sentiment.

While official returns had yet to be released, Poroshenko accepted defeat, saying: "I am leaving office, but I want to firmly underline that I am not leaving politics".

Both candidates have pledged to keep the country on a pro-Western course.

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Poroshenko said on social media he thought Zelenskiy's win would spark celebrations in the Kremlin.

PHOTO:A Ukrainian serviceman walks past a building destroyed as a result of shelling by Russia-backed separatists in the small town of Zolote, April 20, 2019, on the eve of the second round of Presidential election in Ukraine.

But he has faced criticism over his ties to Ihor Kolomoisky, a powerful oligarch, whose TV channel broadcasts his shows. Zelenskiy has rejected those accusations. However, those goals have been elusive amid Ukraine's many problems.

The government wrested PrivatBank from Kolomoisky as part of a clean-up of the banking system backed by the International Monetary Fund.

Poroshenko was elected amid high hopes for change after the Maidan protests.

The IMF will be watching closely too to see if Zelenskiy will allow gas prices to rise to market levels, an IMF demand but a politically sensitive issue and one Zelenskiy has been vague about.

In a downpour of confetti, Zelenskiy accepted his election victory Sunday on the floor of a Kyiv nightclub, rented as campaign headquarters.

Like his sitcom character, a teacher thrust into the presidency after a video of him blasting corruption goes viral, he focused his campaign on fighting graft, riding the wave of public distrust of Ukraine's political elite.

A lack of reform since the 2014 revolution has fuelled support for the outsider promising to fight corruption and leave after one term.

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