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Ukraine candidate ready to speak 'language of force' to pacify east

  • 0a27c442e4987b11530f6a7067005c4d.jpg

    Ukrainian presidential candidate and businessman Petro Poroshenko briefs the media after a meeting with Germany's Christian Union's faction law makers in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The Ukrainian government is planing a presidential election on May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)The Associated Press

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    Ukrainian presidential candidate and businessman Petro Poroshenko, 2. from left, briefs the media after a meeting with Germany's Christian Union's deputy faction leader Andreas Schockenhoff, left, and other law makers in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The Ukrainian government is planing a presidential election on May 25, 2014, (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)The Associated Press

  • Germany Ukraine-3.jpg

    Ukrainian presidential candidate and businessman Petro Poroshenko, left, is accompanied by Germany's Christian Union's ruling party deputy faction leader Andreas Schockenhoff prior to a meeting in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The Ukrainian government is planing a presidential election on May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)The Associated Press

  • Germany Ukraine-4.jpg

    Ukrainian presidential candidate and businessman Petro Poroshenko briefs the media after a meeting with Germany's Christian Union's faction law makers in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, May 7, 2014. The Ukrainian government is planing a presidential election on May 25, 2014. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)The Associated Press

A leading contender in Ukraine's upcoming presidential election says some pro-Russian insurgents in the east of the country only understand "the language of force."

Billionaire chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko said Wednesday, on a trip to Berlin where he was to meet with Chancellor Angela Merkel, that restoring law and order in the east is a priority and he wants to see economic conditions in the heavily Russian-speaking region improved.

But he says there must be "zero tolerance" for armed separatists who have seized several towns and engaged fought with government forces.

Poroshenko, a front-runner in the May 25 election, says he would be ready to negotiate further decentralization of power in Ukraine and hold a referendum, provided it is free and fair.