Both of the main candidates for May’s presidential election in Ukraine have pro-Western ties.
Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko was at the forefront of the country’s pro-democracy Orange Revolution.
Her main rival now that boxer Vitaly Klitschko has pulled out is billionaire chocolate baron Petro Poroshenko. Klitschko and his Udar party are throwing all their weight behind Poroshenko and urging their supporters to do the same.
As well as promising to steer Ukraine away from Russia and towards Europe, Poroshenko also said: “The priorities are to preserve sovereignty and territorial integrity. We will also have to work on the country’s unity.”
Freed from prison just over a month ago, Tymoshenko remains a divisive figure. Nicknamed “the Gas Princess” because of the wealth she acquired in the energy sector, for now, polls show support for her at a third of the figure for Poroshenko. Nevertheless, Tymoshenko is keen to make it clear she is no fan of Russia.
“If Ukraine chooses me as its President, I will never let an aggressor take even a centimetre of Ukrainian land without striking a blow!” Tymoshenko told supporters at a rally in Kyiv.
The candidate from former president Victor Yanukovych’s Party of the Regions is Mykhaylo Dobkin. The ex-governor of Kharkiv, who is currently under house arrest, wants to mend ties with Moscow.
“Because we have more or less good relations with Europe and the US, we need to restore good relations with the Russian Federation – this is what I will do,” said Dobkin.
Whoever wins will have to deal with tough economic conditions if Ukraine accepts an IMF bailout. In return for the money, harsh austerity measures will have to be put in place.