Ukrainian confectionery tycoon Petro Poroshenko has claimed outright victory in the country’s presidential election, exit polls suggest.
He is an experienced politician, though currently unaffiliated to any of the country’s political parties.
The 48-year-old is known as “the chocolate king” for his ownership of Ukraine’s largest confectionery manufacturer, Roshen.
Exit polls suggest he won more than 55.9% of the vote in the first round, enough to avoid a second round of voting which he had warned could be upset by political instability.
Announcing he had won, Mr Poroshenko promised to forge closer links with the EU and restore peace in restive eastern regions where pro-Russian separatists had severely disrupted voting.
Mr Poroshenko also owns 5 Kanal TV, the most popular news channel in Ukraine, which showed clear pro-opposition sympathies during the months of political crisis in Kiev. Forbes estimated his wealth at $1.6bn (£961m) in March 2013.
Mr Poroshenko comes from the mainly Russian-speaking Odessa region in southern Ukraine, although his political stronghold is believed to be in the central Vinnytsya region, where he started his business and political career.
The main slogan of Mr Poroshenko’s election campaign was: “A new way of living.”
The exit polls suggest ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko came a distant second, with over 12% of the vote.
Poroshenko also pledged to implement local governance reform, grant more powers to the country’s regions, facilitate economic reforms, and improve the investment climate.
Mr Poroshenko has been elected to parliament several times and has worked with both the pro-European and pro-Russian political camps in Ukraine.
He was foreign minister in Ms Tymoshenko’s government from 2009 to 2010, and briefly an economic development and trade minister in 2012.
He was one of the founders of Viktor Yanukovych’s Party of Regions. After helping to set it up in 2001, however, he left the same year to lead Viktor Yushchenko’s Our Ukraine electoral bloc.
He was also one of the main figures of the Orange Revolution that brought Mr Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko to power in 2004.
Mr Yushchenko is a godfather to Mr Poroshenko’s children.
US President Barack Obama hailed the election as an “important step forward in the efforts of the Ukrainian government to unify the country.”
The UK Prime Minister announced that they are ready to cooperate with the new authorities in Ukraine.
Sunday’s poll was called after President Viktor Yanukovych was deposed in February, amid mass protests against his pro-Russian policies.