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Hope, scepticism meet Ukraine's new president in east

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

In the pro-Russian stronghold of Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, reactions to the swearing-in of President Petro Poroshenko on Saturday ranged from hope to scepticism.

Poroshenko won last month's presidential vote with a convincing majority based mainly on his popularity in Ukraine's pro-European west, but his support is far more tenuous on the other side of the country.

"Poroshenko is a good guy. He could succeed in solving the situation. Not all at once, of course, but by opening up negotiations with eastern Ukraine," said 61-year-old Volodymyr, who rents out children's bikes on Lenin Square in the centre of Donetsk.

An elderly woman who was getting a bicycle for her granddaughter disagreed: "Poroshenko is not the boss. The United States gives the orders, he doesn't!"

"I haven't heard his inaugural address, but I'm sure nothing will improve under him," she said.

A father by the name of Sergiy, who at 48 is the same age as Poroshenko, expressed similar cynicism.

"He was elected by western Ukraine. He's not our president. What happens in Kiev is none of our business," he said.

Tetyana, a 56-year-old woman who was taking her grandson for a walk, was of the same view.

"We've got our own state, the Donetsk People's Republic, even if no one recognises us yet. I hope for my grandson that he can live in an independent republic where he will be able to speak Russian."

About 200 soldiers, insurgents and non-combatants have been killed in eastern Ukraine since early April when a pro-Russian uprising broke out.

Natasha, a 32-year-old mother, said she opposes the rebels and worries about the looting that has spread through the city since they took over, but she lacked faith in the new president's ability to resolve the conflict.

"I'd love to see Poroshenko come here for an agreement with the other side, but I don't know anything about him.

"I keep my hope in spite of everything, even though lots of my friends are leaving, especially those with little children."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140607/hope-scepticism-meet-ukraines-new-president-east