Ukraine’s presidential poll is not just about candidates. It has been widely seen as a watershed event, presenting the country with a clear choice between East and West. The broader picture may not be of immediate interest to the millions who live below the breadline. For them, tackling poverty is a much more pressing concern. Nonetheless, over recent years Ukraine’s economy has staged a recovery, thanks to strong exports, mainly of steel and chemicals.
Giant neighbour Russia has significant financial interests. It may be 13 years since Kiev cast-off Soviet rule, but Russian influence in the election campaign was strong. After all, the Kremlin wants to develop economic ties with ex-Soviet states, including Ukraine. And, just days before the ballot, Vladimir Putin paid a controversial visit over the border.
Officially, he was in town for a military parade. But, standing alongside the outgoing Ukrainian president and his chosen successor, it looked very much like a seal of approval. The Russian leader used the trip to endorse Kiev’s record of solid economic growth.It is against this backdrop that the main opposition has been pursuing its efforts to move the nation closer to Western Europe.