WARSAW - US President Barack Obama endorsed Ukraine's president-elect Petro Poroshenko on Wednesday, offering Kiev financial and security help and saying he was the right choice to lead the country through its stand-off with Moscow.
With the death toll mounting from fighting between Kiev's forces and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Obama met Poroshenko for the first time since his election last month and said he was impressed with what he found.
"What Ukrainians said in the elections is that they reject that path. They reject violence," and want the opportunity to determine their own future, Obama told reporters after meeting Poroshenko in the Polish capital.
"That's the hope that President Poroshenko represents," Obama said. "In my discussions with him today it's clear he understands the hopes and aspirations of the Ukrainian people."
Poroshenko, a billionaire confectionary magnate, won a landslide victory on May 25 to fill the office left vacant after a pro-Russian president fled an uprising in late February, the start of a crisis that saw Moscow seize Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and pro-Russian separatists rise up in Ukraine's east.
In the days since Poroshenko was elected, Ukraine has ramped up a crackdown against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country, leading to the heaviest fighting of the conflict.
Ukraine said on Wednesday as many as 300 fighters had been killed in the past 24 hours of fighting, although the rebels denied they had suffered such heavy losses.
Obama said Poroshenko - whom he described as a "wise selection" by the Ukrainian people - had laid out his plans for restoring peace and order in Ukraine and reducing its dependence on Russia for energy.
"I have been deeply impressed by his vision," Obama said.
Obama flies on from Poland to Brussels for a meeting of leaders of the world's biggest industrialised economies - minus Russia's President Vladimir Putin, excluded over Ukraine. Obama said he would urge those leaders to also stand shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine in the face of Russian intervention.