Petro Poroshenko shows the presidential seal during his
inauguration ceremony in the parliament hall in Kiev.
Ukraine's new president Petro Poroshenko said his country
would never give up Crimea and would not compromise on its path
towards closer ties with Europe, spelling out a defiant message
to Russia in his inaugural speech.
The 48-year-old billionaire took the oath of office before
parliament, buoyed by Western support but facing a 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
Viktor Yanukovich, 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 our relations with Russia. Russia occupied
Crimea, which was, is, and will be, Ukrainian soil,"
Poroshenko said in a speech that drew a standing ovation.
He said he had delivered that message to Russian President
Vladimir Putin when the two met on Friday at a World War Two
anniversary ceremony in France.
There is no prospect of Russia reversing its takeover of
Crimea, but in what could be a positive signal from Moscow,
Russian news agencies reported Putin had ordered the Federal
Security Service to strengthen protection of the border with
Ukraine and prevent people crossing illegally.
The move was potentially significant because Ukraine and
Western governments have been pressing Moscow to stop what
they say is a flow of Russian arms and fighters into eastern
Russia denies it is backing the uprising but journalists have
encountered Russian nationals among the separatist ranks.
Poroshenko, who earned his fortune as a confectionery
entrepreneur and is known locally as the "Chocolate King",
said he intended to sign the economic part of an association
deal with the European Union as a step towards full
That 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," he said.
Since Poroshenko's election, government forces have stepped
up their operations against the separatists who want to split
with Kiev and join Russia. The rebels have fought back,
turning parts of the Russian-speaking east into a war zone.
Poroshenko offered to provide a safe corridor for Russian
fighters to go home. "Please, lay down the guns and I
guarantee immunity to all those who don't have bloodshed on
Switching from Ukrainian into Russian, he promised to visit
the east with guarantees of Russian-language rights and
proposals for decentralisation that would give its regions a
bigger say in running their own affairs.
But a scornful response from the rebels, who have declared
their own "people's republics", spelled out the scale of the
separatist challenge facing him.
"What they (Kiev's leaders) really want is one-sided
disarmament and for us to surrender. That will never happen
in the Donetsk People's Republic," a top separatist official,
Fyodor Berezin, said by telephone from Donetsk, an industrial
hub where rebels have occupied strategic points.
"As long as Ukrainian troops are on our soil, I can see that
all Poroshenko wants is subjugation. The fight will
AT ODDS WITH MOSCOW
Poroshenko won a landslide election on May 25 after promising
to bridge the east-west divide that has split the country and
thrust it into a battle for survival.
Many Ukrainians hope the election of the former government
minister, who is married with four children, will bring an
end to the most tumultuous period in their post-Soviet
More than 100 people were shot dead by police in Kiev by
police in the street protests that eventually brought
Yanukovich down. In the east, scores of people, including
separatist fighters and government forces, have been killed
The uprising is not the only challenge facing Poroshenko, who
inherits a country on the verge of bankruptcy and rated by
watchdogs as one of the most corrupt and ill-governed in
Kiev is also at odds with Moscow over Russian gas. Russia is
threatening to cut supplies as early as next week unless
Ukraine settles its debt, the amount of which is disputed.
Poroshenko's speech drew an ovation from guests at a ceremony
attended by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, U.S.
Vice President Joe Biden and senior EU officials.
Cheering crowds later greeted him on a walk in blazing
sunshine on the square in front of Kiev's St Sophia's
Cathedral, which was decked out with the blue and yellow
On a visit to France, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said
Washington hoped for a reduction in Russia-Ukraine tensions
in the next few days, including a possible ceasefire.
Russia's foreign ministry, in its first comments after
Poroshenko's swearing-in, acknowledged his inauguration but
did not comment on his speech, calling instead for the
release of two Russian journalists detained in Ukraine.
But reaction was hostile in eastern Ukraine, where government
forces shelled rebel positions in Slaviansk and manned
checkpoints on roads into the city. In another eastern city,
Luhansk, separatist leader Valery Bolotov was emphatic in his
rejection of Poroshenko and Ukrainian rule.
"The Ukrainians have made their choice and they must live
with it. As for our republic, we have no diplomatic relations
with Ukraine," he told journalists, wearing combat fatigues
in a conference room hung with crystal chandeliers.
"Today Ukraine got a new president and now the blood of our
people and of Ukrainians will lie on his conscience."