Ukraine’s rival presidential candidates have stepped up campaigning in the country’s Russian-speaking regions. The pro-Moscow challenger, Viktor Yanukovich, is trying to consolidate his lead in the east. He promised a rally in Odessa that his supporters would march on Kiev if the results were not satisfactory.
Yanukovich’s victory in last month’s poll was overturned by the Supreme Court because of fraud. He described the opposition protests that led up to the ruling as a coup. In a nod to anti-opposition sentiment, he told loyalists that his top priority, if elected, would be to give eastern regions greater autonomy. His rival Viktor Yushchenko has also taken his message to Yanukovich heartlands, keenly aware that a stronger showing there is crucial if he is to win the poll, now just a week away. The pro-western candidate told supporters in Kharkiv that he would defend the use of the Russian language and that strategic ties with Moscow would not be neglected if he becomes president.