Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenski speaks to his supporters at his headquarters after the second round of presidential elections in Kiev, Ukraine, Sunday, April 21, 2019. Ukrainians voted on Sunday in a presidential runoff as the nation's incumbent leader struggles to fend off a strong challenge by a comedian who denounces corruption and plays the role of president in a TV sitcom. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

The Latest: Kremlin says congrats are premature in Ukraine

April 22, 2019 - 7:45 am

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — The Latest on comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy's projected landslide victory in Ukraine's presidential election (all times local):

3:30 p.m.

The Kremlin says it's too early for Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy for winning the Ukrainian presidential election.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that Moscow "respects the choice of the Ukrainian people" but said congratulations were premature.

Peskov said it's also too soon to talk about the Russian-speaking Zelenskiy's victory creating the possibility of improved ties between Russia and Ukraine.

He says Moscow will wait for concrete steps from the new Ukrainian leader, a popular TV comedian with no political experience, before making judgments.

With 99 percent of ballots from Sunday's election counted, Zelenskiy had 73% of the vote. Incumbent President Petro Poroshenko had 24%.


2:45 p.m.

U.S. President Donald Trump has congratulated Volodymyr Zelenskiy on his victory in Ukraine's presidential election.

The White House said in a statement that Trump spoke with Zelenskiy after his victory on Sunday. He called the election an important moment in Ukraine's history and noted the peaceful and democratic manner of the electoral process.

The statement said Trump "underscored the unwavering support of the United States for Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity — within its internationally recognized borders.

He also expressed his commitment to work with Zelenskiy "to implement reforms that strengthen democracy, increase prosperity, and root out corruption."


2:05 p.m.

The governor of the only Ukrainian region where comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy did not win the vote in the presidential election has resigned.

Oleh Synyutka, head of the Lviv state administration, said at a local government session that he is resigning from his post. He did not provide a reason.

Zelenskiy, who is projected to win 73% of the vote in the presidential election, has won in all Ukrainian regions except for Lviv incumbent leader Petro Poroshenko has got most of the vote.

It was not immediately clear who will succeed Synyutka but it is in the president's powers to appoint regional leaders.


12:20 p.m.

France and Germany, which have led diplomatic efforts to defuse the conflict in eastern Ukraine, are congratulating Volodymyr Zelenskiy on being elected as president.

They are underlining their support for reform and their commitment to Ukraine's territorial integrity.

French President Emmanuel Macron's office said Monday that he spoke with Zelenskiy and restated his readiness to work alongside Germany in the so-called "Normandy format," which also involves Ukraine and Russia, to help resolve the conflict between Kiev and Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Germany and France brokered a 2015 peace accord with Ukraine and Russia to stop the fighting, but the deal is far from implemented. There has been no recent summit between the four countries' leaders.

In a separate message to Zelenskiy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed her interest in stabilizing Ukraine and a peaceful resolution to the conflict, along with reforms to the judicial system, decentralization of Ukraine and fighting corruption.


12 noon

The European Union is congratulating Volodymyr Zelenskiy on his election as Ukrainian president, pledging strong support for his plans to reform the country and fight corruption.

In a joint letter to Zelenskiy on Monday, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council chief Donald Tusk said the political novice can "count on the EU's continued and steadfast support of Ukraine's sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity."

Juncker and Tusk wrote that "you can count on the EU's strong support to Ukraine's reform path, including consolidating the rule of law, fighting corruption, maintaining macro-financial stability and pursuing the essential reform of the energy sector." And they said that further implementation of a Ukraine-EU association agreement could be a "crucial instrument" in achieving that.

Zelenskiy, a TV actor, trounced incumbent Petro Poroshenko in Sunday's election.


11:30 p.m.

Even with a landslide win in Ukraine's presidential election to give him a powerful mandate for change, TV actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy has daunting challenges ahead.

The simmering, deadly conflict in eastern Ukraine and the conundrum over Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea are likely to dominate the agenda of the man who up until now has only played the president in a TV sitcom. Zelenskiy, a Russian speaker from central Ukraine has promised to step up efforts to re-integrate the east back into Ukraine's fold but has offered no details on how he is going to do that.

A political novice, 41-year-old Zelenskiy will also have to face off against Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has ruled his country for nearly two decades, if he wants to mend relations with Ukraine's neighbor.


10:30 a.m.

With nearly all the votes counted in Ukraine, TV star Volodymyr Zelenskiy is projected to win the country's presidential runoff vote in a landslide.

The Central Election Commission says Monday that Zelenskiy has won 73% of the vote while the incumbent President Petro Poroshenko got just 24% support with more than 96% of the ballots counted.

Unlike in most of the elections in Ukraine's post-Soviet history, Zelenskiy appears to have won both in Ukraine's west and east, areas that have been traditionally polarized. One of the campaign slogans of the popular television comedian who has no previous political experience was to unify Ukraine, which has been torn by bitter debates over its identity as well as the separatist conflict in the east that is fueled by neighboring Russia.

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