Zee Media Bureau/Supriya Jha
Kiev: Mired in unrest since last few months, Ukraine on Sunday is set to vote for a new president in crucial elections that risk being disrupted by pro-Russian separatists .
Voting will continue till 20:00 local time and results are expected on Monday.
The winner candidate must receive more than 50% of the vote, failing which another round of voting will be held on 15 June.
Ukraine saw a major upheaval in Feb when Viktor Yanukovych, who pulled out of a EU deal, was ousted as President due to protests against his pro-Russian policies.
For the May 25 presidential elections being held in Ukraine, there are 18 candidates in the fray with tycoon Petro Poroshenko also known as `the chocolate king`, being the front-runner.
The owner of Ukraine`s largest confectionery manufacturer, Roshen, Poroshenko is a former foreign minister and is faring better than former PM Yulia Tymoshenko in opinion polls.
Poroshenko is the favorite pick for all those Ukrainians who want to see a European future for the ex-Soviet bloc.
Also, he has the support of opposition leader and former boxer Vitaly Klitschko who himself withdrew his name from the presidential race.
Urging the people to vote, Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk told the citizens to use their franchise to “defend the nation”.
Speaking in a televised address, he said, "This will be the expression of the will of Ukrainians from the west, east, north and south".
To tackle the security in wake of the vote threatened by the pro-Russian separatists, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has deployed over a thousand observers.
However, they have pulled out their observers from the eastern restive town of Donetsk, fearing security concerns.
The elections have found an unusual supporter in none other than Russian president Vladimir Putin, who after the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych, had spoken against the elections.
However, Putin has now expressed support for the elections,, agreeing to respect the results and work with the new elected president.
Earlier, Putin had also urged the pro-Russian separatists to delay referendums held in Luhansk and Donetsk.
However, the rebels ignored Putin`s suggestion and planned to go ahead with the vote for secession that is set to escalate the crisis in Ukraine, which has already lost the Black Peninsula of Crimea in a similar previous referendum held on March 16.
Pro-Russian separatists have declared independence in eastern towns of Donetsk and Luhansk after holding referendums there and are now planning to unite with Russia.
Ukraine has been in the throes of crisis since Feb 22 ouster of Viktor Yanukovych, which followed Crimea takeover by Russia in March.
Crimea annexation fuelled further tension in eastern Ukraine where pro-Russians occupied government buildings in over a dozen of cities.