Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday said the United States will back the new Ukraine leader and support its people, just as Petro Poroshenko was named winner of the weekend's presidential election. Ukraine's election commission chief said that the tycoon won the election in the first round by collecting more than half the votes in a poll that Washington hopes will bring stability to the eastern European country. "We will support their efforts to determine their own future in a more united, secure, independent, and prosperous Ukraine," Kerry said in a statement before Poroshenko's victory was announced. Sunday's vote was seen as the most important in Ukraine's post-Soviet history as it fights to stay united after months of turmoil and avert economic collapse.
Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - A fierce battle erupted Monday for control of the main airport in rebel-held eastern Ukraine, just hours after president-elect Petro Poroshenko vowed he would not let the country become another Somalia. Ukrainian fighter jets and combat helicopters struck the terminal building at Donetsk airport to try to dislodge separatist gunmen who seized the complex, triggering heavy gun battles. Plumes of thick black smoke rose from the airport complex as the sound of explosions and heavy machinegun fire rang out throughout much of the day, AFP correspondents at the scene said. Scores of gunmen had stormed the airport in an apparent show of defiance against Poroshenko, the Ukrainian magnate who claimed a resounding victory in Sunday's presidential poll.
The triumph of France's far right National Front (FN) in European elections has left President Francois Hollande fighting for his political life, allies and analysts warned Monday. A day after his Socialist Party polled a record low of less than 14 percent and one in four voters backed the FN, Hollande was hit by another stinging rebuke from the country's disgruntled electorate. With his authority crumbling, Hollande also faces the prospect of a rebellion within his party, where a significant minority of deputies blame the government's attempts to comply with the rules of the euro single currency for turning voters against the party and the European Union (EU). Le Nouvel Observateur, an influential left-leaning weekly, concluded bluntly that: "Hollande no longer has any chance for 2017," and urged the French left to turn its attention to finding an alternative candidate with a better chance of combatting the FN.
Belgium investigators on Monday probed a possible terrorist link in a fatal weekend shooting by a lone gunman at the Jewish Museum in Brussels that has shocked the world. On Monday the inquiry was transferred to the federal public prosecutor's office authorised to handle terrorist cases and spokeswoman Wenke Roggen said a probe had been opened into "terrorist" assassination. Earlier, deputy public prosecutor Ine Van Wymersch said the decision to transfer the case was based on "the identity and nationality of the victims". Along with Israel's foreign intelligence agency, Mossad, and its domestic security equivalent, Shin Bet, the Nativ agency was under the authority of the prime minister's office.
Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - The main airport in Ukraine's eastern city of Donetsk was rocked by an explosion and heavy shooting on Monday after armed rebels seized the facility, an AFP correspondent at the scene said. Thick black smoke was seen rising from the airport complex as the sound of heavy machinegun fire rang out and fighter jets could be heard overhead. The strategic transport hub had been evacuated and sealed off after gunmen claiming to be from the self-declared "Donetsk People's Republic" showed up overnight demanding that Ukrainian troops guarding the airport perimeter be withdrawn. The raid was launched in the hours after billionaire Petro Poroshenko claimed victory in a presidential election Sunday that the pro-Russian rebels have dismissed as illegitimate.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Monday that Moscow was willing to talk with Ukraine's newly elected president Petro Poroshenko. "We are ready for dialogue with Kiev's representatives, with Petro Poroshenko," Lavrov said at a joint press conference with his South Sudanese counterpart Barnaba Marial Benjamin.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif are to meet Monday in Istanbul to discuss the path toward a final nuclear deal. The previously unannounced two-day meeting comes after fruitless talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna earlier this month when no "tangible progress" was made ahead of a July 20 deadline for a comprehensive agreement. The Istanbul tete-a-tete was announced on Iranian media, with the ISNA news agency citing a source close to the Islamic republic's nuclear negotiating team.
Saudi Arabia has arrested nine university professors for their alleged links to the banned Muslim Brotherhood movement, media reported on Monday. Investigators found the professors, two Saudis and the rest from neighbouring countries, had been involved with "foreign organisations" based on "voice recordings and emails" linked to them, Okaz daily reported. It identified the organisation as the Muslim Brotherhood, designated by the interior ministry in March as a "terror" group. Saudi Arabia and its neighbour the United Arab Emirates have cracked down on Islamists accused of links to the Brotherhood and other Islamist groups.