Yushchenko confident of victory in Ukraine

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.

Arts & Entertainment
Ricky Gervais at a screening of 'Muppets Most Wanted' in London last month
tvAs the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian on why he'll never bow to critics who habitually circle his work
Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
News
news
Life & Style
Going down: Google's ambition to build an elevator into space isn't likely to be fulfilled any time soon
techTechnology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
VIDEO
News
David Cameron sings a hymn during the enthronement service of The Most Rev Justin Welby as Archbishop of Canterbury, at Canterbury Cathedral last year
news
Life & Style
From long to Jong: Guy Pewsey outside Mo Nabbach’s M&M Hair Academy in west London before the haircut
fashionThe Independent heads to an Ealing hairdressers to try out the North Korean dictator's trademark do
Sport
Vito Mannone fails to keep out Samir Nasri's late strike
sportMan City 2 Sunderland 2: Keeper flaps at Nasri's late leveller, but Black Cat striker's two goals in 10 minutes had already done damage
Extras
indybest10 best smartphones
News
peopleRyan Gosling says yes, science says no. Take the A-list facial hair challenge
Arts & Entertainment
tvCreator Vince Gilligan sheds light on alternate endings
News
Paul Weller, aka the Modfather, performing at last year’s Isle of Wight Festival in Newport
people
Life & Style
Michael Acton Smith founded Firebox straight out of university before creating Moshi Monsters
techHe started out selling silliness with online retailer Firebox, before launching virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
News
Ethical matters: pupils during a philosophy lesson
educationTaunton School's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success
Arts & Entertainment
Play It Forward: the DC Record Fair in Washington, US
musicIndependent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads on Record Store Day
Sport
video
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Online Advertising Account Executive , St Pauls , London

£26K-30k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Advertising Account Executive - Online, Central London

£25K-28k + Bonus, Private Medical Insurance, Company Pension: Charter Selectio...

Senior Infrastructure Consultant

£50000 - £65000 Per Annum potentially flexible for the right candidate: Clearw...

Public Sector Audit - Bristol

£38000 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Do you have experience of ...

Day In a Page

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal