A comedian with no political experience has won the most votes in the first round of Ukraine’s presidential elections, according to exit polls.
They say Volodymyr Zelenskiy—who played the president on TV— received 30.4% of the vote, with current leader Petro Poroshenko second on 17.8%.
The two, who have expressed largely pro-EU opinions, are set to take part in a run-off election next month.
Ex-PM Yulia Tymoshenko appears to have been eliminated on a projected 14.2%
“I’m very happy but this is not the final result,” Mr Zelenskiy told the BBC’s Jonah Fisher minutes after the exit polls were announced.
Mr Poroshenko described his forecast second place as a “harsh lesson”.
The interior ministry says hundreds of electoral violations have been reported, but foreign observers say the vote appeared to be mainly smooth.
A total of 39 candidates were on the ballot paper, and with none receiving 50% the top two will go forward to the run-off on 21 April.
The Ukrainian president has significant powers over security, defence and foreign policy and the ex-Soviet republic’s system is described as semi-presidential.
Mr Zelenskiy is aiming to turn his satirical TV show Servant of the People – in which he portrays an ordinary citizen who becomes president after fighting corruption – into reality.
He has torn up the rulebook for election campaigning, staging no rallies and few interviews, and appears to have no strong political views apart from a wish to be new and different.
His extensive use of social media appealed to younger voters.