Platini Hopes Ukraine Political Woes Will End

WARSAW, Poland -- UEFA chief Michel Platini on Saturday said he hoped Euro 2012 co-host Ukraine would solve its deep political crisis, as the ex-Soviet nation braced for bitterly-contested presidential polls.

UEFA chief Michel Platini.

"Things haven't exactly been easy with regard to Ukraine for the past two years," Platini told reporters on the eve of the qualifying competition draw for the 2012 European championships in Warsaw, capital of Ukraine's fellow-host Poland.

"Between the financial crisis and the political problems in Ukraine, it's not been particularly simple.

"Now they have elections. May the best person win. The Ukrainian people will decide. After that we hope the situation will be easier politically," he added.

Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and opposition leader Viktor Yanukovich are competing in Sunday's run-off to become Ukraine's fourth president since the former Soviet republic, which borders the EU, won independence in 1991.

Five years after the Orange Revolution street protests overturned a disputed presidential election that had initially been awarded to Yanukovich, the candidates have traded allegations of plotting to rig the vote.

The campaign has been bruising, there have been warnings of street protests, and some predict that a close election could lead to instability.

The Orange Revolution prompted hopes of Ukraine becoming a prosperous state targeting EU membership, but the dreams crumbled amid political bickering and a dire economic crisis.

Amid a wave of enthusiasm about the region, UEFA picked Ukraine and Poland as hosts in 2007 ahead of favorites Italy.

It is the first such large-scale foray by European football's governing body behind the former Iron Curtain.

"This is a historic occasion. It's a real first for football," Platini underscored.

But there have been repeated jitters about the hosts' ability to get ready for the showcase tournament.

In addition the crisis in Ukraine, both ex-communist nations face major challenges turning out the required stadiums and other infrastructure.

UEFA has however in general been happier about the readiness of politically-stable Poland, a European Union member since 2004 and the only nation in the 27-nation bloc to have bucked the global economic crisis.

"Were absolutely certain that Poland and Ukraine will be a really great European championships," Platini said.

"There are still two years to get things into shape," he added.

Source: AFP