The frontrunners in the race to be the next president of Ukraine have launched their campaigns for January’s election. Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko staged a carefully-choreographed rally in front of thousands of supporters, and vowed to take Ukraine into the European mainstream:
“Our way must be the way towards Europe,” she said. “Ukraine, having the most powerful Christian and European roots, can not be left out of the European community.” In a fiery 45-minute speech Timoshenko underlined her pro-western values, but said she also wants good relations with Ukraine’s former master Moscow. Her populist rally was in stark contrast to that of her rival, the pro-Russian former prime minister Viktor Yanukovich, who barred the press from his more sober campaign launch. “My foreign policy priority will be the restoration of a fully-fledged partnership with Russia,” he said. “But I will also work for the development of mutual cooperation with the United States, Europe and all key G20 countries.” The campaign is already getting dirty: Yanukovich’s camp link Timoshenko’s party to a children’s sex scandal on the Black Sea, while her loyalists tie him to the beating and rape of a woman during his youth.