Yushchenko confident of victory in Ukraine
Sunday 19 December 2004
Ukraine's two presidential contenders square off tomorrow in a television debate which is sure to see accusations that the Western-backed candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, was poisoned with dioxin by backers of his opponent, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.
The debate opens the final week in a marathon and convoluted presidential election process. Voting takes place next Sunday after Ukraine's supreme court ruled that Mr Yanukovich won last month's run-off between the two men through massive fraud, setting off weeks of demonstrations by hundreds of thousands of Mr Yushchenko's orange-clad supporters. Their fervour has been increased by confirmation last week from two Western clinics that a mysterious complaint which has transformed Mr Yushchenko's appearance was caused by dioxin poisoning.
Appropriately for an election being held on Boxing Day, Vitali Klitschko, the Ukrainian who successfully defended his WBC heavyweight title against Briton Danny Williams in Las Vegas last week, is among celebrities in Mr Yushchenko's corner. One of the candidate's senior colleagues, Mykola Tomenko, joked that Klitschko would psychologically prepare Mr Yushchenko for the debates, and would be in the studio "so we can guarantee calm and 100 minutes of peace and friendship" during the verbal contest.
Mr Yanukovich's appearance will be a rare opportunity for inhabitants of Kiev to see him. Since the supreme court ruling he has spent little time in the capital, concentrating on his supposed strongholds of eastern and south-eastern Ukraine, but he appears to have been summarily abandoned by his highly placed backers. Even his mentor - the outgoing President, Leonid Kuchma - has distanced himself from his anointed successor. His campaign manager, former Ukrainian National Bank chief Serhiy Tyhypko, has also thrown in the towel.
President Vladimir Putin of Russia, who visited Ukraine to boost Mr Yanukovich's chances on the eve of both election rounds, and congratulated him on victory two days before the fraudulent vote result was even declared, has also muted his support for the government candidate. Mr Putin has been heavily criticised in the West for his open interference in the presidential race amid suspicion that the Kremlin may have been involved in the attempt to poison Mr Yushchenko.
Mr Yanukovich has become angry as his support ebbs, describing his former friends as liars and cowards. At a poorly attended press conference last week, where reporters were outnumbered by sinister black-clad men, the government candidate read from a prepared statement, calling on Europeans and Americans not to meddle in Ukraine's affairs.
Even though the election is taking place at the height of the West's Christmas season - most Ukrainians celebrate the festival early in January - more than 7,000 international observers have registered to monitor the voting. Mr Yushchenko, confident of victory, is declaring his intention to prosecute those responsible for poisoning him, deepening the alarm of the present administration, as well as Moscow.
Mr Putin's plans to rebuild the Kremlin's power, beginning with a political and economic "common space" con- sisting of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan, were backed by Mr Yanukovich, while his opponent favours closer links with the EU and America.
Are beards attractive? Ryan Gosling says yes, but science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge and find out who's right
South Korea ferry: Four dead and almost 300 missing as mass rescue gets underway
Oscar Pistorius trial: Reeva Steenkamp told athlete she 'loved him' for first time in Valentine's Day card
Oscar Pistorius trial: Reeva Steenkamp standing with 'hand on the door handle' when she was shot dead
Lunar eclipse 2014: Images of the spectacular 'blood moon'
The food poverty scandal that shames Britain: Nearly 1m people rely on handouts to eat – and benefit reforms may be to blame
US Navy christens huge $3 billion destroyer ship USS Zumwalt that appears as a fishing boat on enemy radar
Nigel Farage fatigue? Half of voters ‘immune’ to Ukip’s appeal
Scottish independence: It is the English who should be on their knees, begging the Scots to vote ‘No’
Nigel Farage on Have I Got News For You: Ukip leader ridiculed over expenses and party 'fruitcakes'
Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 1 Poveglia: 'World's most haunted island' up for auction...is anyone brave enough to buy it?
- 2 Refugee facing deportation from Sweden saved by fellow passengers refusing to let plane leave
- 3 Naked yoga: the bare truth - it's already big in the US, and has now landed here
- 4 24 people applied for the 'world's toughest job', here are their interviews
- 5 Scientists warn we've hit 'peak beard': The more people grow facial hair, the less attractive it is
£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...
£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...
£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...