Boxing champion Vitali Klitschko elected mayor of Kiev
Former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitali Klitschko has claimed victory in an election to become mayor of Kiev, clinching a major role in Ukraine's emerging new political order after presidential election.
Klitschko is a close ally of Ukraine's new president, Petro Poroshenko, whom he backed for the top job after quitting the contest himself. Their alliance has been on display in the past 24 hours when Klitschko, who is some two metres tall, stood beside Poroshenko at two news conferences.
As mayor, Klitschko takes responsibility for the 'Maidan', central Kiev's Independence Square, nerve-centre of the uprising which ousted president Viktor Yanukovich in February after his attempt to move Ukraine closer to Russia and away from Europe.
Backed by Poroshenko, Klitschko said today it was finally time after fair and free presidential and mayoral elections, for hundreds of protesters who have kept up their vigil since Yanukovich fled to Russia to leave the Maidan.
"The main task of the Maidan has been achieved, we were saved from dictatorship. The barricades have fulfilled their function and must now be removed," Klitschko, 42, told a joint news conference with Ukraine's new president.
The square is still covered with tents and barricades, many festooned with posters, flags, banners and photographs of the 100-plus people killed by Yanukovich's forces last winter - a powerful symbol of "people power" in the ex-Soviet republic.
"We have to free Khreshchatyk [Kiev's main thoroughfare] for traffic and then return to normal peaceful life and this will be a fine example for other regions," said Klitschko.
He was referring to two regions of eastern Ukraine where pro-Russian separatists declared autonomous "people's republics" and prevented the presidential election taking place.