Ukraine has a president after eight months of turmoil and four months without a sitting president. Petro Poroshenko was sworn in as the fifth president of Ukraine. In his speech, he promised to unite the torn country, bring peace, and not to give up on Crimea.
Poroshenko swore on the manuscript of Peresopnytsya Gospel to serve Ukraine and preserve its territorial integrity and unity. Head of Constitution Court handed Poroshenko the symbols of presidency – the president’s stamp, mace and badge.
Here is his full speech in English:
Presidents of Austria, Lithuania, Poland, Bulgaria, and Georgia attended the event. Vice President Joe Biden was also there to represent the United States. Poroshenko met with President Barack Obama in Warsaw last Tuesday.
Vice President Biden ditched the motorcade and opted to walk with Senator McCain to an inaugural reception in Kiev. pic.twitter.com/7sNrRX4WTq
– Colleen Nelson (@ColleenMNelson) June 7, 2014
Crimea is a very sensitive issue since the Black Sea peninsula was annexed by Russia in mid-March. Ukraine and the West do not recognize the annexation. Poroshenko promised Ukraine he will fight for Crimea.
“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,” he said.
Poroshenko told the pro-Russian forces in east Ukraine to put down their weapons and, unless there is blood on their hands, they will not face charges and will receive immunity. He promised to visit the east and give them more power over their regions. However, the self-proclaimed leaders of Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic said Poroshenko is not welcome in their regions and neither recognize his presidency until he does the same for them.
“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,” Fyodor Berezin, an official with the rebels, told Reuters. “As long as Ukrainian troops are on our soil, I can see that all Poroshenko wants is subjugation. The fight will continue.”
“I think he won’t visit us himself as long as a military operation is under way here. I can’t imagine how he wants to put things in order here other than by military actions,” said Valery Bolotov, the self-proclaimed leader of Luhansk. “As concerns our republic, we don’t have diplomatic relations with Ukraine. Starting today, Ukraine has had its president, and the blood of both our people and citizens of Ukraine will be on his conscience now.”
Poroshenko told the people he is ready to sign the European Union Association Agreement.
“My pen is in my hands. As soon as the EU takes the decision, a signature of Ukraine’s president will immediately appear under this fateful agreement,” he announced.
The agreement is the first step to future membership with the EU, which is the goal of Ukraine. It is also the agreement that started the revolution in Ukraine. Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych chose closer ties to Russia over the EU agreement, which led to a three-month protest in Kiev’s Independence Square, until he was ousted in February. Poroshenko said the membership would bring peace and stability to the country. He also said Ukraine will enjoy visa-free travel within the EU by 2015.
Poroshenko was a member of parliament and resigned from the post before he took the oath. He also promised to sell Roshen, his confectionary company that made him a billionaire. He owns Channel 5, a Ukrainian television channel, but made it known he will not sell the station. Dunja Mijatovic, top official for media freedom at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), told TIME the TV station should be the first asset to go.
“If Mr. Poroshenko intends to sell his assets, in my view, his TV station should be the first to go,” she said. “It is my firm view that elected politicians should not own and control media outlets in their country, be it Ukraine, Italy or any other, so as not to use and abuse them to serve their political goal.”
But Western leaders are satisfied with him and, in Warsaw, Obama said Poroshenko is the right man to lead Ukraine out of this crisis.
“We had the opportunity to discuss President-elect Poroshenko’s plans for bringing peace and order to the east that is still experiencing conflict. We discussed his economic plans and the importance of rooting out corruption, increasing transparency, and creating new models of economic growth,” said Obama. “We discussed issues of energy – making sure that Ukraine becomes a more energy-efficient economy but also one that is less dependent solely on energy sources from Russia. And I have been deeply impressed by his vision, in part because of his experience as a businessman, in understanding what’s required to help Ukraine grow and to be effective.”
Here are a few pictures from the historic day in Ukraine:
– Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) June 7, 2014
– Christopher Miller (@ChristopherJM) June 7, 2014
Poroshenko in tears while signing the national anthem at public swearing-in ceremony in Kyiv todaypic.twitter.com/2A01IrSSSt
– Maxim Eristavi (@MaximEristavi) June 7, 2014
– Volodymyr Solohub (@v_solohub) June 7, 2014
– Alexander Vershbow (@NATOdsg) June 7, 2014
– Alec Luhn (@ASLuhn) June 7, 2014
– Ukraine Reporter (@StateOfUkraine) June 7, 2014