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Ukrainians elected Petro Poroshenko to be their fifth president in a vote that was dubbed "the second independence referendum."
Poroshenko won his presidency in the first round, according to two exit polls. The poll conducted by four TV channels showed that he received 57.8 percent of the vote. His main rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko received 12.8 of the vote.
The turnout was expected to be around 60 percent nationwide and much higher in western parts of the country where 52 percent voted by 4 p.m., according to OPORA, the biggest election watchdog. There were fears that many will not be able to vote at all because of long queues.
Andriy Magera, deputy head of the Central Election Commission, advised people to get inside polling stations by 8 p.m. to make sure that its officials are obliged to give people ballots.
People waited in long queues for hours in crowded polling stations, especially in Kyiv and other cities where mayoral and local elections were held on the same day. Because of the whopper turnout, the vote was dubbed “the second referendum for independence” by users of social networks in Ukraine as people proudly posted selfies of themselves voting in national clothes.
It was polling day in Ukraine's eastern capital, Donetsk, but the long, leafy avenues were all but empty as residents, unable to vote in the presidential election, stayed at home in fear of violence from pro-Russian militants.
Surrounded by these bare streets, demonstrators gathered on Lenin Square in central Donetsk, a sprawling city of a million at the heart of the Donbass coalfield. In a show of strength by those hostile to leaders in Kiev, shots were fired into the air while several large trucks carrying armed separatists drove by.
Clashes between Ukrainian troops and militiamen and pro-Moscow rebels set on independence or union with Russia left 20 or more dead in the region in the days before the vote. It was called to replace Viktor Yanukovich, a local boy made good from Donetsk, who fled to Russia after protests in Kiev in February.
"Today, we bid farewell to five of our comrades who died the day before yesterday," a separatist battalion commander told the crowd on Lenin Square of around 1,500, referring to an attack on his unit. "We didn't go to them but they came to us. We defended the frontiers of our city and region. They attacked us."
The separatist fighters had been lying low in the Soviet-era regional administration building or in general keeping out of sight of the public in the past week. But on Sunday, there was a distinct change in atmosphere as the militants, most in black fatigues and sometimes in masks, were seen around town.
Having declared an independent "people's republic" after a referendum two weeks ago, they argue that the Ukrainian presidential election has no validity in their region.