All Candidates Are Equal, Says President

KIEV, Ukraine -- President Viktor Yanukovych, responding to criticism from opposition groups and international observers, said Wednesday all parties and candidates running for seats in Parliament have equal opportunities for their campaigns.

Viktor Yanukovych

The pledge, however, sparked distrust as the top government official running campaign for the ruling Regions Party had been spotted on Wednesday at the presidential administration apparently holding secret meetings.

“At our point of view, all parties and candidates running in majority districts are in equal conditions,” Yanukovych said addressing a meeting of Ukrainian diplomats in Kiev.

“The equal conditions were created for all.”

“Those violations that sometimes happen are what we call a human factor,” he said. 

The developments come days after the United States and the European Union have jointly urged Ukraine to stop selective prosecutions of opposition figures and to make sure that upcoming October 28 election is fair and democratic.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton discussed the issue with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton in New York earlier this week, stressing that the October 28 elections will be an important test.

The growing concerns about fairness of the upcoming election were spurred by reports across the country that pro-government candidates and parties have been receiving favorable treatment and support of the authorities.

For example, the law enforcement authorities arrested Ruslan Demchak, a banker and a top candidate running for a parliamentary seat in the Vinnytsia district No. 18, forcing him to quit the race.

The withdrawal from the race clears the way for Hryhoriy Kaletnyk, the father of Ihor Kaletnyk, the powerful head of the State Customs Service, and comes after security service agents raided Demchak’s ERDE Bank.

“I learned that Kaletnyk suggested Demchak to quit the race. He refused,” Oleh Veremeyenko, a lawyer at ERDE Bank, told Gazeta.ua.

“So, shortly afterwards the security agents have showed up.”

Meanwhile, speculations that the Regions Party may be getting unfair advantages only accelerated on Wednesday after a top official and the chief of its campaign had been spotted at the presidential administration.

Yanukovych has repeatedly denied any involvement in the election.

Andriy Kliuyev, the secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, who has taken 74 days off to focus on the campaign, had secretly visited the administration. 

“People spend vacations in different places. Some in Turkey, some in Croatia, some in Monaco or in Nice. But some - at the presidential administration,” Serhiy Leshchenko, an investigative reporter at Ukrayinsla Pravda, wrote on his blog. 

Kliuyev’s time off is a “window dressing aimed at the international community,” Leshchenko wrote.

“They are trying to convince [the community] that Kliuyev, as the chief of the campaign, is not using the support of the authorities.”

Source: Ukrainian Journal

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