Electoral officers count the ballot papers at a polling station in Kiev on Sunday. Vasily Maximov/ AFP
KIEV: Comedian Volodymyr Zelensky topped the first round of Ukraine’s presidential election with almost twice the vote share of his nearest rival, incumbent Petro Poroshenko, Partial results showed on Monday.
The election commission website gave actor Zelensky 30.2 per cent with Poroshenko trailing on 16.7 per cent, with just over half of all votes counted.
The pair will now meet in a run off set for April 21.
Ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who was herself favourite when she launched her campaign, was knocked out with 13.08 per cent of the vote, the figures showed.
When he announced his long-shot candidacy at the start of the year, Zelensky’s political experience had been limited to playing the president in a TV show.
But he tapped into fatigue with the political class and public frustration over corruption and a stalling economy.
If the actor wins the second round in April, as opinion polls suggest, he will take the reins of one of the poorest countries in Europe — a nation of 45 million people fighting Russian-backed separatists in its industrial east.
"We voted for this resolution, and we join the Member States in appealing to peace. A just peace that endures by recognising all parties' legitimate concerns and abides by the UN Charter's principles of independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity."
Kremlin-orchestrated referendums widely denounced by Ukraine and the West as bogus without legal force, they are considered a step towards the annexation of the territories to Russia.
Around 90,000 polling stations across the country opened at 8 a.m., and will close at 5 p.m., reports Efe news. Voters will elect 500 members of the House of Representatives, the lower house, for a four-year term.
The witnesses said that Israeli army drones and fighter jets were heard buzzing in the air and several explosions were heard west of the southern Gaza Strip cities of Khan Younis and Rafah, Xinhua news agency reported.
Some criticized the initial muted US response to the near-daily Turkish bombardment — a broad call for "de-escalation” — as a US green light for more. With Erdogan not backing down on his threat to escalate, the US began speaking more forcefully.
The visit came less than a week since General Asim Munir took charge of Pakistan's powerful military, and were among his strongest public statements on arch-rival India since taking up the role.