Ukraine’s Poroshenko vows to beat comedian rival as campaign closes

KIEV: Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko insisted he could beat comedian and poll-leader Volodymyr Zelensky despite what he said were Russian attempts at interference, as his re-election campaign entered its final day on Friday.
Poroshenko has sought to position himself as the only candidate who can stand up to Moscow as he seeks to beat back support for Zelensky, whose political experience is limited to playing the president in a TV series.
“I am absolutely confident that despite all of Russia’s attempts… the Kremlin will not block the European or Euro-Atlantic integration of my country,” Poroshenko told AFP and other Western media after his final campaign rally late on Thursday in the Western city of Lviv.
Friday is the last day of campaigning before a first-round vote on Sunday, in which polls show Poroshenko and ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko scrambling for second place to face Zelensky in a run-off.
Poroshenko, however, said he “definitely” felt sure of victory
“We understand how important this election is for democracy in Ukraine, for the future of Ukraine and for the stability of Europe,” Poroshenko said.
The 53-year-old leader came to power in 2014 — after a popular uprising ousted his pro-Russian predecessor — on promises to tackle graft, improve living standards and align Ukraine with the West.
But after five years, corruption is still widespread and Ukraine remains among the poorest nations in Europe.
Frustrations with the political class has led to the surprise rise of Zelensky, who has a roughly ten-point lead over his nearest rivals in final polls published this week.
Nonetheless Poroshenko told thousands of supporters in Lviv that “the worst, friends, is definitely over”.
“We have just started to make up the losses after the crisis caused by Russian aggression and war,” he said.
Ties between Kiev and its Soviet-era master Moscow have been in tatters since the 2014 revolution forced out the Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych and Russia retaliated by annexing Crimea.