WATCH: Ukraine’s new president, billionaire Petro Poroshenko, promises to restore order to the country. Mike Armstrong reports.
TORONTO – Ukraine’s “Chocolate King”-turned-politician Petro Poroshenko has won the country’s presidency with 55 per cent, according to exit polls.
The billionaire candy tycoon wasted no time on Monday in promising to negotiate an end to a pro-Russia insurgency in the east and saying he was willing to begin talks with Moscow.
Observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe hailed Ukraine’s presidential vote as a “genuine election.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country viewed the vote positively and was ready for a direct dialogue with Poroshenko.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper congratulated Ukrainians for taking what he called an important step towards rebuilding democracy.
WATCH: Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird accuses Russia of interfering in the Ukrainian election
We take a brief look at some career highlights of Ukraine’s new leader Poroshenko:
- Estimated by Forbes magazine to be worth $1.3 billion, he got his start in 1995 selling cocoa beans, “then bought several confectionery plants on the cheap during a privatization wave and combined them into Roshen.”
- Sold across Asia, North Africa and Europe, Roshen brings in $1 billion in revenue from a variety of products, including truffles, milk-chocolate bars and jellied hard candy.
- Poroshenko began his career in politics in 1998 as a lawmaker in a Russian-friendly party.
- In 2000, he was one of the founders of the Party of Regions, the political power behind Ukraine’s ousted ex-president Viktor Yanukovych.
- Poroshenko parted ways with the Party of Regions in 2004 and threw his support behind the 2004-05 Orange Revolution– a series of protests and political events—that brought Yanukovych’s arch-rival Viktor Yushchenko to power. There, he served as Yushchenko’s head of the national security council but stepped down within months amid allegations of corruption and after consistent feuding with then prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
- From 2009 to 2010, Poroshenko served as the minister of foreign affairs and as economics minister for a few months in 2012.
- On March 12, Poroshenko visted Simferopl in and effort to prevent the peninsula from holding a referendum on joining Russia. Amateur video showed the leader walking through the streets and being hounded by pro-Russian demonstrators. In an interview with The Atlantic, associate professor of political science at Kiev-Mohyla Academy Andreas Umland said it was that moment that elevated “Poroshenko to the front ranks in the eyes of many Ukrainians.”
- Poroshenko has spoken against holding a vote on whether Ukraine should seek NATO membership. After Russia occupied Crimea ahead of the March secession referendum, pro-NATO sentiment spiked in much of Ukraine, but many in the eastern regions still oppose it.
- Poroshenko is a staunch EU supporter but says it’s important to mend ties with Russia quickly. The president-elect says relations with Moscow should be equal and should not undermine Ukrainians’ desire for closer ties with the European Union.
- Last year, Poroshenko told the Ukrainian Korrespondent magazine that he was ready to “put his reputation at risk” in preparing the ground for a trade deal with the European Union.