(QHA) -

President Obama congratulated Ukraine on its election Sunday, particularly citizens in the east who voted despite the efforts of "Russian-backed separatist groups" that "sought to disenfranchise entire regions", USA Today reports.

In a written statement, issued while Obama was making a trip to Afghanistan, Obama said that "we commend the resolve of all those who participated, as well as the efforts of the Ukrainian government to conduct these elections in the face of those threats."

Early exit polls indicate a victory for chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko, who has pledged closer ties to the west.