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Poroshenko Says Crimea 'Is, Was, Will Be' Ukrainian

by VOA News June 07, 2014

Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko promised to maintain the unity of Ukraine, saying Crimea 'is, was and will be Ukrainian.'
The billionaire businessman took the oath of office as the country's fifth president since the breakup of the Soviet Union Saturday in the capital, Kyiv, in front of parliament, world leaders and dignitaries, including U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.

Poroshenko said during his inaugural address he will not accept Russia's annexation of Crimea. Moscow sent troops to the Black Sea peninsula earlier this year and took control of it in March.
The new Ukrainian leader also pledged dialogue with countrymen in the country's east, where pro-Russian separatists have clashed with Ukrainian forces.

Poroshenko won 55 percent of the votes in a May 25 election featuring 21 candidates.

He now must steer a country troubled by severe economic woes and unrest in the Russian border region.

In his speech, Poroshenko said he intended to sign an economic agreement with the European Union soon as a first step toward full membership in the organization, Reuters reported.

'We are people who have been torn away from our big motherland, Europe, and we are finally and irreversibly coming back to it,' Poroshenko said.

Russia strengthens border security

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly ordered the Federal Security Service to beef up protection of Russia's border with Ukraine. Russian news agencies on Saturday said the move aims to prevent illegal crossings into Ukraine.

The measure comes a day after the United States, Russia and Ukraine took tentative steps to ease tensions spawned by the crisis.

U.S. President Barack Obama met informally with his Russian counterpart, Putin, in a push to bring what the Kremlin called 'a speedy end to violence and military operations' in eastern Ukraine.

The two leaders met in France on the sidelines of D-Day commemoration ceremonies.

U.S. officials said Obama used the unplanned, 15-minute meeting to emphasize that Russia can only contribute to regional peace by recognizing Ukraine's newly elected president, Poroshenko. Obama urged Putin to end support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Putin also met Friday with Poroshenko, then Ukraine's president-elect. French officials told reporters that Putin and Poroshenko agreed to open more formal talks aimed at negotiating a cease-fire in eastern Ukraine.

Fighting continues

Separatists for weeks have been waging an increasingly violent insurgency in the Russian-speaking region. Fighting erupted Friday near the Russian border as the top-level diplomacy unfolded nearly 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles) away in Normandy.

Authorities say separatists shot down a Ukrainian military plane Friday near Slovyansk. Ukrainian media also reported one member of Ukraine security forces was killed and several others wounded in a mortar attack outside the city.

G7 leaders unified

Friday's diplomacy at Normandy capped a week of meetings and pronouncements from Western leaders who condemned the Ukraine rebellion and Moscow's widely perceived role in it.

Obama and Western leaders met in Brussels Thursday without Russia's presence for the first time in nearly two decades.

The G7 leaders used the forum to condemn Moscow for its support of the ongoing rebellion, and warned of further economic sanctions if Russia fails to stop the cross-border flow of weaponry and fighters into eastern Ukraine.

The Brussels summit was originally scheduled as a G-8 forum in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. But Western powers later rejected Mr. Putin's invitation and moved the summit to Brussels as fighting intensified in eastern Ukraine and Moscow's support for it became more apparent.

Some information for this report provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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