Petro Poroshenko, "impressive" yet "realistic." Photographer: Sergei Gapon/AFP/Getty Images

Albright's Sunny View From Ukraine

Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. He was the executive editor of Bloomberg News, before which he was a reporter, bureau chief and executive Washington editor at the Wall Street Journal.
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Madeleine Albright, the former U.S. secretary of state, said she was encouraged by the Ukrainian election today, and is impressed with the country's apparent new leader.

She is in Ukraine as an official election observer, and argues that the initial focus on the problems in the eastern part of the country, where voting in some places was impossible, presents a distorted picture.

"There was a very high turnout in a well-run election," said Albright, who was there in her capacity as chairman of the National Democratic Institute. "There is an amazing sense of unity" in much of the country, she said, noting that many voters were wearing blue and yellow clothes or waving flags.

She acknowledged the problems in eastern Ukraine, which is less oriented toward Europe, and that the reaction of Russian's Vladimir Putin will be instrumental: "No one knows how Putin will react."

Moreover, she noted, the Ukrainian problems -- economic, political and security -- "will be a very long story."

She argued, however, that the election was an auspicious start, giving the country a chance to turn around.

The former chief American diplomat met with Petro Poroshenko, the billionaire who exit polls say finished first in today's voting and thus almost certainly will be the next president of Ukraine. "He's an impressive figure," she said, describing him as "measured" and "realistic" about the economic, political and security challenges awaiting him.

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