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Ukraine's Chocolate King and Gas Princess contend for presidency

Ukraine's Chocolate King and Gas Princess contend for presidency
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A sequel to the deadly street protests that saw pro-Moscow leader Viktor Yanukovych driven out of Ukraine: a first-ever snap presidential election is to take place this Sunday.

The trouble started after pro-EU protesters demanded the Kremlin-backed government in Kyiv tighten European ties. Now Crimea has been annexed by Russia and other parts in eastern Ukraine are in violent turmoil.

This will be Ukraine’s fifth presidential contest since it declared independence from the former Soviet Union in 1991.

Confectionery magnate Petro Poroshenko, running against 20 other candidates, is the overwhelming favourite to win this election.

The only Ukrainian oligarch to throw his weight behind the people’s uprising — including coverage by his Channel Five television station — served as foreign minister and economy minister in two previous administrations.

The billionaire businessman in Ukraine’s top 10 rich list is nick-named the ‘Chocolate King’. Poroshenko’s sweet group Roshen is in the world’s top twenty such firms

Fellow opposition leader and boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klychko was also going to run for president but he pulled out to support Poroshenko.

Poroshenko backs Ukrainian integration with the western mainstream. This has incurred the Russian authorities’ anger, and trade retaliation.

Also among the presidential hopefuls is Yulia Tymoshenko, a divisive former prime minister who was imprisoned under Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. She is in second place in the running.

Following the bloodless 2004 Orange Revolution, Tymoshenko became prime minister then locked horns with the ruling elite over corruption allegations.

She made her fortune as a government gas intermediary in 1990s. Questions over her business dealings still today make her a strongly divisive figure among Ukrainians.

She was jailed on charges she had abused her premier powers in cutting a poor deal for the country in a natural gas contract with Russia.

She was sentenced to seven years. The EU condemned it as a political travesty. She was released this February, after the latest revolution.

According to some sources, former vice prime minister Sergei Tihipko is the third-placed presidential candidate, behind Poroshenko and Tymoshenko.

Once minister of economics and then National Bank chairman, Tihipko tried for the presidency in 2010. He was in Yanukovych’s Regions Party, but has quit, saying it betrayed the country.

Tihipko has said the elections must go ahead in spite of the bloody insecurity in the east, for which he partly blamed former president’s party.

Their candidate is former businessman and then governor, mayor and member of parliament Mykhailo Dobkin. If no candidate wins outright in this Sunday’s round one voting, a run-off will be held on June 15.