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Ukraine

Opinion: Head of an unsettled state

Never before has a Ukrainian president enjoyed such broad support. And never has one faced such challenges. Petro Poroshenko has to fulfill the hopes of Ukrainians, says DW's Bernd Johann.

Before even having officially entered office, Petro Poroshenko, the new Ukrainian president, had already spoken with the most important Western politicians.

He met with US President Barack Obama in Warsaw. He dined with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin. And in Normandy, France, there was even a short, if frosty, encounter with Kremlin leader Vladimir Putin, whose aggressive policies after annexing Crimea have placed Ukraine's eastern borders in question.

Everyone wants to speak with Poroshenko - Merkel, Obama - or feels they're compelled to, as Putin does.

Never before in Ukraine has a presidential election achieved such a clear mandate: The influential businessman and politician won in the first round, with no run-off. He received a majority vote in every part of the country, with the exception of Donetsk, where separatists prevented the elections by force just about everywhere.

Power vacuum in eastern Ukraine

Poroshenko is a man of the political center. His clear democratic legitimacy could make him a powerful president. And Ukraine urgently needs a strong man up top.

Armed pro-Russian groups have, with Russia's support, instigated a war in the east that claims new victims every day. Russia continues to allow foreign fighters and weapons to cross the border into Ukraine.

Then there's the difficult economic situation throughout the entire country: Only through international financial assistance could Ukraine avoid bankruptcy. Comprehensive reforms are needed for the country to find its feet economically.

At the same time, Russia has put energy-dependent Ukraine under pressure during talks on gas deliveries. Through the mediation of EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, a compromise could be found. But that's not certain.

Hope for a better life

Poroshenko must now solve all of these problems. He is the head of a state which finds itself in an extreme situation. His predecessor, Yanukovych, more or less plundered the country and drove it toward political abyss - until a broad protest movement formed against the abuses, expelling the unpopular president.

The people of Ukraine are unsettled. They want peace, a normal life, one that points toward European standards. All hopes are now vested in Poroshenko. He must ensure that public confidence in the state returns once more. That is an enormously difficult task.

To achieve it, he has the entire support of the West. He wants to lead his country toward the EU. At the same time, he wants good relations with Russia. Without Moscow, it's not possible to solve the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Poroshenko is rightly prepared to act with full force against violent separatists.

But the people in Donetsk and Luhansk - and in all of Ukraine, as well - must be persuaded by the new president that his policies will fulfill their hopes for a better life.

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