PRO-EUROPEAN parties have won a victory in Ukraine’s parliamentary election, with a sharp rise in anti-Russian sentiment.
Russia said it would recognise the result, which dealt a blow to Moscow’s efforts to keep Ukraine in its political orbit.
With 60 per cent of the vote counted yesterday, the three main pro-western parties stood to win 54 per cent combined. Negotiations on forming a broad reformist coalition are expected to begin immediately.
Meanwhile, Poland will move thousands of troops toward its eastern borders, its defence minister said. Last night, Russia had no immediate reaction to Poland’s moves.
Sunday’s vote in Ukraine overhauled a parliament once dominated by loyalists of former president Viktor Yanukovych, who sparked months of protests – and eventually his removal in February – with his decision to deepen ties with Russia instead of the European Union.
Anti-Russian sentiment has grown as Ukraine battles separatists in the east whom many believe are supported by Moscow. Still, the Opposition bloc, which pundits believe drew its support from Mr Yanukovych’s once-ruling Party of Regions, put in a strong showing and captured about 10 per cent of the vote.
Of the pro-European parties, prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk’s Popular Front secured 21.6 per cent while president Petro Poroshenko’s party had 21.4 per cent. A new pro-European party based in western Ukraine was running third with 11 per cent.
The Fatherland Party of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has argued strongly for Nato membership and is likely to join a pro-Europe coalition, had 5.7 per cent of the vote.
Kent Harstedt, who oversaw the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observer mission, said the election offered voters a real choice and showed “respect for fundamental freedoms”.
The OSCE said, however, that there were isolated security incidents on election day and instances of intimidation and destruction of campaign property ahead of the vote.
Russia had criticised Ukraine’s election campaign before the vote but foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said that Moscow would recognise its outcome.
He said: “It is very important that in Ukraine, at last, there will be a government that is occupied not with the pulling of Ukraine either to the West or to the East, but with the real problems that are facing the country.”
Mr Poroshenko has laid out an ambitious agenda envisioning significant changes to Ukraine’s police, justice and tax systems, defence sector and health care – all to be completed by 2020. Among the tougher decisions ahead will be allowing the cost of utilities in the cash-strapped country to float in line with market demands.
While around 36 million people were registered to vote on Sunday, no voting was held on the Crimean Peninsula, which was annexed by Russia in March, or in separatist-held parts of Ukraine’s eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk.
Anton Karpinsky, a 36-year-old doctor in Kiev, said he was delighted that Ukraine will now have a pro-western government.
“Our revolution and fight was not in vain,” Mr Karpinsky said. “The election shows that Ukraine sees its future in Europe and Nato, and we will get there step by step.”
Stepan Burko, a 67-year-old pensioner whose £86 monthly allowance barely covers his food bills, said difficult times remain ahead despite Mr Poroshenko’s optimism.
He said: “The only certain winners in Ukraine are slogans. But it is much more difficult to overcome poverty and war.”
In Warsaw, Polish defence minister Tomasz Siemoniak said troops were needed in the east because of the conflict in neighbouring Ukraine.
He said: “The geopolitical situation has changed. We have the biggest crisis of security since the Cold War and we must draw conclusions from that.”