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New Ukraine President announces elections (2nd Lead)

Volodymyr Zelensky 220190520205155_l

Kiev (Ukraine), May 20 (IANS) Comedian-turned-politician Volodymyr Zelensky announced parliamentary elections during his swearing in as Ukraine’s new President on Monday. The election may take place in October.

"I am dissolving the Verkhovna Rada (parliament)", the BBC quoted Zelensky as saying.

Ending the conflict with Russian-backed rebels in the east would be the top priority, the President, who scored a landslide victory in the presidential election on April 21, said.

Zelensky made his inaugural address in Ukrainian, but at one point, referring to the conflict in the east, he switched to Russian, saying: "I’m convinced that for this dialogue to start, we must see the return of all Ukrainian prisoners" — apparently a message to the Russian government.

"Our first task is to achieve a ceasefire in Donbas," he said, referring to the eastern region controlled by Russian-backed rebels.

A political novice, he campaigned strongly against official corruption. "(Those) people must come to power who will serve the public," he said on Monday. In the election, Zelensky ousted incumbent Petro Poroshenko who had been in power since 2014.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would not congratulate Zelensky on his inauguration, but would wait for "the first successes in settling the internal conflict in south-eastern Ukraine, and in normalising the Russian-Ukrainian relations".

Zelensky, a former television star, acted the part of Ukrainian President in a popular comedy series.

"We must become Icelanders in football, Israelis in defending our native land, Japanese in technology," he said at the swearing in ceremony. Ukrainians must "become Swiss in our ability to live happily with each other, despite any differences", he said

Zelensky has given few details of his plans since winning the presidency and has left it to a team of advisers to assure people that he knows what he’s doing.

At the ceremony, Zelensky was given golden symbols of office, including a sceptre, which he held aloft in a victory salute. A choir in folk costume sang patriotic songs to welcome him.

Russian state TV said no Russian official had been invited to the inauguration.

Fighting in the east has claimed around 13,000 lives since Moscow annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula in 2014.