Ukrainian Rivals Fail To Get Support Of Major Party Leaders

KIEV, Ukraine -- The two candidates competing for the Ukrainian presidency failed yesterday to secure the support of three major party leaders for next month’s election run-off, and were denounced by the outgoing head of state.

Sergey Tigipko has refused to back both Yulia Tymoshenko and Viktor Yanukovych in the Feb 7 poll. Tigipko maybe holding out for a chance to run for mayor of Kiev.

“I offered to Sergei Tigipko not only to unite our programmes and our vision for developing Ukraine . . . I also offered him the post of prime minister,” current premier Yulia Tymoshenko said of the banker-turned-politician who came third in Sunday’s ballot with 13 per cent of votes.

Mr Tigipko refused, however, to back Ms Tymoshenko or her rival Viktor Yanukovich, who won the first round of voting by just over 10 per cent.

The contenders in the February 7th run-off also failed to win endorsements from fourth-placed Arseniy Yatseniuk or fifth-placed Viktor Yushchenko, the departing president who lambasted his would-be successors.

“Ukraine has free elections but no genuine choice . . . I do not see fundamental differences between the two candidates,” he said. “National, European and democratic values are alien to both.”

Mr Yushchenko and Ms Tymoshenko fell out after taking power in the 2004 Orange Revolution, a series of huge street protests against Mr Yanukovich’s use of fraud in that year’s presidential election.

Mr Yushchenko claimed only 5.5 per cent of votes on Sunday, but insisted that the broadly free and fair conduct of the election was proof that the Orange Revolution had not been a total failure.

Ms Tymoshenko and Mr Yanukovich again traded barbs yesterday, as they accused each other of being controlled by crooked tycoons and she chided him for declining her offer of a live television debate.

“People say to me that it is useless to quarrel with a woman. But it’s not true,” Interfax news agency quoted Mr Yanukovich as saying. “Above all, I believe that she is the prime minister and she must bear responsibility for her every word. But if she is only a woman, her place is in the kitchen.”

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev intends to dispatch an ambassador to Kiev, five months after withdrawing him in protest at Mr Yushchenko’s allegedly “anti-Russian” policies.

The Kremlin leader said he hoped for better ties with his successor, whoever it may be, and both candidates have pledged to improve relations with both Moscow and the European Union. An aide to neighbouring Poland’s president said this week that Ukraine’s “direction is already set” and it should become an EU member.

Source: Irish Times