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Comedian takes the lead after first round of presidential elections in Ukraine

A runoff between the two leading candidates is expected this month.

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Image: Shutterstock/Review News

A COMEDIAN AND actor with no political experience has taken the lead in the first round of the Ukrainian presidential elections.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy (41) held 30.2% of the votes ahead of the incumbent president Petro Poroshenko (53) who held 16.7% of support with just over half the votes counted, according to the Ukrainian Elections Commission. 

Zelenskiy plays a fictional president in the television series Servant of the People and is running as an anti-establishment figure in the elections. 

Poroshenko, a billionaire famous for his chocolate-making business Roshen, has been in office since being elected in 2014. 

Ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshkenko, who was herself favourite when she launched her campaign, was knocked out with 13% of the vote, figures showed. 

However, without either Zelenskiy or Poroshenko securing a majority, a runoff between the two leading candidates is expected to be held on 21 April. 

In 2014, Ukraine saw renewed conflict after Russian troops moved in, annexing Crimea, and prompting new sanctions to be introduced by the EU. 

It followed public unrest on the Crimean peninsula when president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted and fled to Russia. 

Russia continues to control the region today. 

If Zelenskiy 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. 

With reporting from AFP.

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