Petro Poroshenko took the oath of office as Ukraine's president Saturday, calling on armed groups to lay down their weapons as he assumed leadership of a country mired in a violent uprising and economic troubles.
In his inaugural address to the Verkhovna Rada, the country's parliament, Poroshenko promised amnesty "for those who do not have blood on their hands."
That appeared to apply both to separatist, pro-Russia insurgents in the country's east and to nationalist groups that oppose them.
Poroshenko also promised dialogue with citizens in the eastern regions, but excluded the insurgents.
"Talking to gangsters and killers is not our avenue," he said, according to a translator.
He also called for early regional elections in the east.
He assumed power a day after meeting Russian President Vladimir Putin at D-Day commemoration ceremonies in France.
Despite the outreach to Putin, Poroshenko said he will not accept Russia's annexation of Crimea.
"Crimea is, was and will be Ukrainian. There will be no trade-off," Poroshenko said.
ROMAN PILIPEY / EPA
Ukrainian President-electy Petro Poroshenko greets Ukrainians during a flag raising ceremony after his inauguration in Kiev, Ukraine on Saturday.
Russia annexed the territory in March after its troops took control of the Black Sea peninsula and Crimea held a secession referendum that Kiev and Western countries regard as illegitimate.
Poroshenko, who became a billionaire as a candy tycoon, was elected on May 25, three months after the pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovych fled the country in the wake of months of street protests.
Putin has denied allegations by Kiev and the West that Russia has fomented the rebellion in the east, and he insisted Friday that Poroshenko needs to speak directly to representatives from the east.
- Associated Press
First published June 7 2014, 12:13 AM