Kiev: Exit polls suggested candy tycoon Petro Poroshenko won Ukraine`s presidential election in the first round Sunday, a ballot that took place amid weeks of fighting in eastern regions where pro-Russia separatists have seized government buildings and battled government troops.
The rebels had vowed to block the ballot in the east and less than 20 per cent of the polling stations were open there.
But nationwide, about 60 per cent of the electorate turned out, the central elections commission said.
Poroshenko, viewing the exit polls as definitive evidence of victory, said his first steps as president would be to visit the eastern industrial region of Donbass - home to Ukraine`s coal mines - and "put an end to war, chaos, crime and bring peace to the Ukrainian land."
Long lines of voters snaked around polling stations in Kiev, the pro-Western capital, but heavily armed pro-Russia rebels in eastern Ukraine intimidated locals by smashing ballot boxes, shutting down polling centers and issuing threats.
The exit poll for today`s election, conducted by three respected Ukrainian survey agencies, found the 48-year-old candy tycoon Poroshenko getting 55.9 per cent of the vote.
Poroshenko ducked the question whether he was prepared to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin but said Kiev would like to negotiate a new security treaty with Moscow.
At a distant second was former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko with 12.9 per cent, the poll showed. Full results are expected tomorrow in the election that authorities in Kiev hope will be a critical step toward resolving Ukraine`s protracted crisis.
"I would like to congratulate Ukraine with the fact that despite the current aggression by the Kremlin and the desire to break this voting, the election happened and was democratic and fair," Tymoshenko said after the polls closed. "I think this is the evidence of the strength of our nation."
The exit poll, which surveyed 17,000 voters at 400 precincts, claimed a margin of error of 2 percentage points, indicating Poroshenko passed the 50-per cent mark needed to win without a runoff. It was conducted by the Razumkov Center, Kiev International Sociology Institute and the Democratic Initiatives Foundation.