KIEV, May 25 (Xinhua) -- Ukrainians began casting their ballots Sunday morning to elect a new president for the next five years in an early election amid heightened security measures.
More than 35.5 million Ukrainian eligible voters are expected to cast their ballots in the election, which began at 8:00 a.m. local time (0500 GMT). The polling stations would close at 8 p.m. (1700 GMT).
The government has deployed around 55,700 police officers and 20,000 volunteers to guarantee public order at the 34,000 polling stations across the country.
Outside the No.588 polling station of the No. 219 electoral district, three security guards with machine guns came one hour before the start of voting.
"We are here to make sure the vote will be carried on safely and smoothly," one of the guards said.
"Everything is prepared orderly, now we are going to see the development of the vote," said NATO observer Deroon, who only gave his surname.
Extra security measures have been taken in the country's eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which have been plunged into chaos following anti-government protests.
During the vote, which is held amid Ukraine's crisis, a total of 21 candidates are competing for the presidency, with former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and businessman Petro Poroshenko, also known as the "Chocolate King," emerging as front runners.
Yuli Grytshenko, a middle school teacher, said he has voted for Poroshenko. "He is intelligent, and I think he is the best choice."
After casting her ballot, Zhanna Astakova, a 28-years-old taxi driver, told Xinhua that "I choose Yulia, because she is a female politician that men are always afraid of. Nobody is better than her. "
Poroshenko, 48, a businessman-turned-politician, was leading opinion polls ahead of the vote. Also a former minister of trade and the head of the council that runs the national bank, he got the nickname "Chocolate King" for controlling a large confectionery group called Roshen.
Tymoshenko, who led the Fatherland party, was trailing behind Poroshenko in pre-election opinion polls.
If no candidate wins over 50 percent of the vote, a run-off will be held on June 15.
Some 3,500 international observers, including diplomats from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and representatives of 19 foreign countries, will monitor the vote.
The early election was called three months after former President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted in February.
PARIS, May 24 (Xinhua) -- French president Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had phone talks on Saturday with Russian president Vladimir Putin over the due presidential election in Ukraine.
On the eve of the run-off, the three leaders "... agreed that the vote should take place tomorrow with the best conditions to ensure stability in Ukraine."Full story
KIEV, May 23 (Xinhua) -- The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry on Friday welcomed Russia's readiness to work with the new Ukrainian leadership after an upcoming presidential election.
"If it really happens, we will welcome not only Russia's announcement, but also its concrete steps toward the recognition of the Ukrainian leadership," Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia told reporters.Full story
MOSCOW, May 23 (Xinhua) -- Some countries deliberately stoked tensions in Ukraine to advance their geopolitical goals, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told the 3rd international security conference here.
"Regional instability may be advantageous for certain countries as a convenient pretext for extensive reconfiguration of the existent security architecture," Interfax news agency quoted Shoigu as saying.Full story