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Ukrainian Churches praise new president after landslide victory
29 May 2014 12:20 by Jonathan Luxmoore

Ukrainian Catholics have welcomed the landslide victory of Petro Poroshenko, a former foreign minister, in Sunday’s presidential election, and predicted a return to democratic governance and national unity.

“The new president is a practising Orthodox Christian, who's sympathetic to other Churches and ready to organise national life in a new way,” said Bishop Bogdan Dziurach, secretary-general of the Ukraine's Greek Catholic Synod of Bishops. “The previous rulers supported one denomination, for their own interests. If a new government ensures freedom of speech and religion, listens to the nation and satisfies popular yearnings, it will meet democratic criteria.” 

The bishop was speaking as 48-year-old Mr Poroshenko, a billionaire confectionery magnate, was officially declared the winner after securing 56 per cent of votes on a 60 per cent turnout of Ukraine's 35.5 million electors. In a Tablet interview, Bishop Dziurach said the country's interim government, headed by acting premier Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a Greek Catholic, deserved “the greatest respect and recognition” for “defending the people” and arranging elections “in conditions of external aggression and internal tension”. He added that Mr Poroshenko would be taking charge of Ukraine “at the most dramatic moment in 23 years of independence”, but said he believed the country would “consolidate around him”.

The elections took place three months after pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych fled Ukraine amid bloody street protests after resisting calls for closer ties with the European Union, and two months after Russia’s annexation of its Crimean peninsula. Russia's Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, told a press conference on Tuesday Moscow was “ready for dialogue”.

Bishops from Ukraine’s smaller Latin Catholic Church urged special prayers at the weekend for “unity, reconciliation and development”.