Ukraine election: Comedian Zelensky ‘wins presidency by landslide’

Volodymyr ZelenskyImage copyright
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Volodymyr Zelensky starred in a satirical drama in which his character accidentally becomes president

Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelensky has won a landslide victory in the country’s presidential election, exit polls suggest.

The polls give the political newcomer, who dominated the first round of voting three weeks ago, more than 70% support.

Mr Zelensky, 41, challenged incumbent president Petro Poroshenko who has admitted defeat.

The apparent result is being seen as a huge blow to Mr Poroshenko and a rejection of Ukraine’s establishment.

“I will never let you down,” Mr Zelensky told celebrating supporters on Sunday.

“I’m not yet officially the president,” he added. “But as a citizen of Ukraine I can say to all countries in the post-Soviet Union: Look at us. Anything is possible!”

If polls are correct, he will be elected for a five-year term.

Ukraine’s president holds significant powers over the security, defence and foreign policy of the country.

Humiliation for Poroshenko

Analysis by Jonah Fisher, BBC News, Kiev

Ukraine’s choice was between an experienced politician with five years as president on his CV and a comedian wielding little more than a blank sheet of paper. That so many people have opted for Volodymyr Zelensky is a humiliation for Petro Poroshenko.

Thirty-seven candidates were removed from the ballot paper from the first round and yet the president only picked up about 9% more votes this time. Mr Zelensky gained almost 45 percent.

This feels like a massive protest vote and for now Mr Zelensky and his campaign team are celebrating.

It’s hard to see the feeling lasting long. The hard work will come when they have to start fleshing out what are at the moment vague policies.

It’s one thing to have bold ideas but quite another to implement them.

Polls gave Mr Poroshenko, who has been in power since 2014, 25% of the vote.

“The outcome of the election leaves us with uncertainty [and] unpredictability,” he said after exit polls were released.

He added: “I will leave office but I want to firmly stress – I will not quit politics.”

The billionaire was elected after an uprising overthrew the country’s previous pro-Russian government.

Russian forces annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in March 2014 – a move condemned internationally. Since then, Ukrainian forces have been fighting Russian-backed separatists and volunteers in the east.

In a tweet, Mr Poroshenko said “a new inexperienced Ukrainian president… could be quickly returned to Russia’s orbit of influence”.

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Petro Poroshenko was elected after an uprising overthrew the previous pro-Russian government

But Russia’s foreign ministry said Ukrainian voters had expressed their desire for political change.

“The new leadership now must understand and realise the hopes of its electors,” deputy foreign minister Grigory Karasin told the RIA Novosti news agency. “This of course applies to domestic as well as foreign affairs.”

Meanwhile, Mr Zelensky told a news conference on Sunday that he would “reboot” peace talks with the Russian separatists.

Who is Volodymyr Zelensky?

Mr Zelensky is best known for starring in a political satirical drama called Servant of the People in which his character accidentally becomes Ukrainian president.

He ran under a political party with the same name as his show.

With no previous political experience, his campaign focused on his difference to the other candidates rather than on any concrete policy ideas.

Despite this, he won the first round with more than 30% of the vote – almost double what Mr Poroshenko got when he finished in second place with 15.95%.

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Volodymyr Zelensky has vowed to tackle corruption and cronyism

What do voters think of him?

Analysts believe Mr Zelensky’s informal style and vow to clean-up Ukrainian politics resonated with voters who are disillusioned with the country’s path under Mr Poroshenko.

Eschewing traditional campaign tactics, Mr Zelensky channelled his on-screen persona by promising to stamp out corruption and loosen the grip of oligarchs on Ukraine.

Experts say his supporters, frustrated with establishment politicians and cronyism, have been energised by his charisma and anti-corruption message.

His critics, meanwhile, are sceptical about his credentials, with many expressing concern over his close links to the billionaire oligarch Ihor Kolomoyskyi.

They have expressed doubts that he will be able to take on the country’s influential oligarchs and stand up to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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Lyra McKee murder: Two men released without charge

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A message of condolence was added to the mural at Free Derry corner in the city

Two men arrested in connection with the murder of journalist Lyra McKee have been released without charge.

Ms McKee, 29, died after she was struck by a bullet as she observed rioting in Londonderry’s Creggan estate on Thursday night.

The pair, aged 18 and 19, had been held under the Terrorism Act.

It was also confirmed on Sunday that Ms McKee’s funeral will held at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast on Wednesday.

Her partner Sara Canning said the service would be a “celebration of her life”.

It is understood the funeral service will be attended by political and faith leaders from across Northern Ireland.

Writing on Facebook, Ms Canning called on attendees to wear Harry Potter and Marvel related items.

‘Positive support’

Speaking on Saturday, PSNI Det Supt Jason Murphy said police had received “positive support from the community” but needed to “convert this support into tangible evidence”.

“We will continue to work positively and sensitively with the local community to achieve this,” he said.

Det Supt Murphy appealed specifically to people who were in Fanad Drive and Central Drive on Thursday night, the area where Ms McKee was fatally wounded, to come forward with footage of the incident.

“Please come and speak with my detectives and provide us with your mobile phone footage,” he said.

“We do not need to hold on to your phone, we have necessary equipment that will allow us to download the footage quickly.”


Meanwhile, the Catholic bishop of Derry said the community in the nationalist area where Lyra McKee was shot dead needs to be “liberated” from dissident republicans.

The words “not in our name – RIP Lyra” have been added to the famous Free Derry mural in the city’s Bogside area.

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Media captionJournalist Lyra McKee, 29, was shot during rioting in Londonderry

Police have blamed dissident republicans for the murder, which happened after violence broke out as officers were carrying out searches for weapons and ammunition.

Intelligence had led them to suspect that there could be attacks on police over the Easter period.

‘Disgusted by what happened’

Ms McKee was standing near a police 4×4 vehicle when she was shot after a masked gunman fired towards police and onlookers.

A statement issued by the hard-left republican political party Saoradh on Friday sought to justify the use of violence on Thursday night.

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Floral tributes to Lyra McKee have been left in the Creggan estate where she was shot

Saoradh, which translates as liberation in Irish, has the support of the dissident republican group the New IRA.

Bishop Donal McKeown said the “small” group of dissident republicans in Derry is a “danger to all of us”.

He told the BBC’s Sunday Sequence that people in the Creggan estate were “disgusted at what happened”.

“The one liberation they require in that community is liberation from Saoradh,” he said.

“We don’t want to be laboured with a reputation that comes from a small group that represents a small number of people but is actually a danger to all of us.”

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Media captionPSNI released CCTV footage after Lyra McKee’s murder

Ms McKee’s killing came 21 years after the Good Friday peace agreement was signed in Northern Ireland.

The 1998 peace deal marked the end in the region of decades of violent conflict – known as the Troubles – involving republicans and loyalists during which about 3,600 people are estimated to have died.

The Good Friday Agreement was the result of intense negotiations involving the UK and Irish governments and Northern Ireland’s political parties.

Tributes have been paid to Ms McKee from leading figures in the worlds of journalism, politics and beyond.

Vigils have been held across Northern Ireland and people have paid tributes to her by signing books of condolence.

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Easter Sats revision classes ‘a growing trend’

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There’s a growing trend of primary schools running Easter holiday revision classes for formal tests, known as Sats, a teachers’ union says.

The NASUWT union says “cramming sessions” are becoming more common in schools ahead of the tests sat in May.

It says children should not be in school over the holidays, but should be spending time with their families.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds said Sats were tests of the education system in England, “not our children”.

The results of Sats tests taken by 11-year-olds are published each year in primary school league tables, published by the Department for Education.

Darren Northolt, the NASUWT’s national official for education, said it was the pressure of accountability that was leading schools to open up for Year 6 pupils over the holidays.

“Schools think that this is going to give them an edge in getting the results they need – so that’s the driver,” Mr Northolt said at the union’s annual conference in Belfast.

“It seems like an ill-conceived response to this pressure.”

He said that while attendance at the Easter booster sessions he was aware of was voluntary, it was not clear what sort of message parents were being sent.

“I think children would be better off in the Easter holidays, absolutely, if they have been set some homework and if that homework is useful and productive, they should be doing that.

“But they should also be doing enjoyable, engaging things in their own time, with their own friends, spending time with their families, which is all a critical part of a healthy childhood.”

General secretary Chris Keates said: “The growing trend of Easter Sats classes in primary schools is a worrying reflection of the high-stakes accountability regime they operate in.

“Children should be spending Easter with their families and friends, not cramming for Sats.”

Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner said: “Our pupils are the most tested in the world, but there is no evidence that the current high-stakes testing regime improves teaching and learning.”

But Mr Hinds said exam stress at primary school level was not inevitable.

“All over the world, schools guide children through tests without them feeling pressurised.

“These are tests of our education system, not our children.

“No-one has ever been asked for their Sats results when they go to a job interview – why? Because they are not public exams.”

Labour ‘would ban Sats’

Last week, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn announced he would scrap Sats if his party came to power, saying the move would help improve teacher recruitment and retention.

Instead, Labour would introduce alternative assessments which would be based on “the clear principle of understanding the learning needs of every child,” he said.

But Schools Minister Nick Gibb said abolishing Sats would be “a retrograde step”.

He said the move would “keep parents in the dark” by preventing from knowing how good their child’s school is at teaching maths, reading and writing.

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Amir Khan: British boxer should retire after being pulled from Terence Crawford fight, says Steve Bunce

Khan (left) has lost five of his 38 bouts as a professional

Amir Khan “should retire now” after being pulled out of his fight with Terence Crawford, says Steve Bunce.

Briton Khan, 32, took a low blow from American WBO world welterweight champion Crawford in the sixth round at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Unbeaten Crawford, 31, later accused Khan of quitting which the former two-weight world champion denied.

“We can’t keep applauding him for his heart and guts and bravery,” Bunce told the 5 Live Boxing podcast.

“He’ll be throwing punches until the cows come home.”

Khan was knocked down in the first round by Crawford and was behind on all three judges’ scorecards when the fight ended.

Crawford – who has held world titles in three weight divisions – drove a left hook into Khan’s groin 47 seconds into the sixth, leaving him in “too much” pain to continue.

“I thought Amir Khan looked awkward, his balance looked poor, his shot selection wasn’t great,” Bunce added.

“Sometimes his feet can be bad when he’s lazy. That’s not a criticism, that’s a fact.

“We’re looking at a kid who should retire now. I’m looking at the end of the fight, being outclassed even though you’re fighting your heart out, how poor his feet were, how desperately he missed sometimes.”

‘He wasn’t looking for a way out’ – did Khan quit?

Khan’s trainer Virgil Hunter said the boxer was “incapacitated” by Crawford’s low punch, with Khan adding he “couldn’t think straight” after the blow.

On Sunday, Khan once again rejected Crawford’s claims that he had quit, saying on Twitter