KIEV - Coalition talks intensify Tuesday between the pro-Western winners of Ukraine's parliamentary poll, while attacks by pro-Russian insurgents in the east highlight the obstacles to their promises of peace and deeper EU ties.
The day after pro-West and moderate nationalist forces backing President Petro Poroshenko scored a big win in Sunday's election, the hard work of forming a ruling coalition began.
With 67 per cent of precincts reporting, Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's People's Front and the Petro Poroshenko Bloc were neck and neck, winning about 22 per cent of the votes each.
Expectations were that the two will work together in government, with Yatsenyuk retaining the premier's post.
However, the pro-West regime now faces giant challenges: restoring relations with Russia, ending the insurgency, eradicating corruption, tackling massive debt, and resolving a near permanent crisis over Russian gas supplies.
Russia welcomed the outcome of the election as backing for "a peaceful resolution" of the separatist war being waged by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine.
'Valid but dirty campaign'
Deputy Foreign Minister Grigoriy Karasin said the election was valid "in spite of a rather harsh and dirty campaign".
Western leaders hailed the general election as a democratic milestone.
The head of the EU executive, Jose Manuel Barroso, called the vote a "victory of democracy and European reforms".
France said the results "confirmed the people's fundamental choice".
US President Barack Obama called the election -- declared mostly fair by a European observer team -- an "important milestone in Ukraine's democratic development".
His Vice President Joe Biden will visit Ukraine, and Turkey, next month, for talks with Poroshenko, the White House announced.
But in a fiery reminder of the hurdles Poroshenko faces, an election-period lull in the rebel-held east ended early Monday in a barrage of artillery fire.
Dozens of rockets fired by pro-Russian insurgents could be heard blasting from the city of Donetsk towards a nearby Ukrainian military base, AFP correspondents said.
More shelling was reported near the government-held coastal city of Mariupol, while military authorities reported the deaths of two soldiers in a rebel attack on Sunday near Lugansk.