Ukraine’s presidential contenders go head-to-head in debate ahead of Sunday’s vote

Ukraine’s presidential contenders go head-to-head in debate ahead of Sunday’s vote

Incumbent Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and populist challenger Volodymyr Zelenskiy will debate each other today in Kyiv ahead of Sunday’s

poroshenko Zelenskiy debate

Photo: Oleg Petrasiuk

Incumbent Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and populist challenger Volodymyr Zelenskiy will debate each other today in Kyiv ahead of Sunday’s deciding vote.

In the first round, on March 31, Mr Zelenskiy defeated Mr Poroshenko by almost 15%. Current polls suggest that Mr Poroshenko’s challenger will also emerge victorious in the second round of voting.

In a chaotic campaign already marred by a number of theatrics, the election has been further complicated by evidence from Ukrainian intelligence that unmasked a Russian plot to create false Facebook pages supporting Mr Zelenskiy. In response, Mr Poroshenko’s campaign and outside observers have expressed concern that Russia is trying to influence the election and undermine the incumbent’s campaign.

While Mr Zelenskiy supports further political and economic integration of Ukraine and Western Europe—for example, by working with the International Monetary Fund to build Ukraine’s ties with the Eurozone—Ukraine’s Security Service is also investigating him for alleged financial ties to Moscow. Thus, the Kremlin may be exploiting Mr Zelenskiy’s inexperience and desire to take the reins of power from Mr Poroshenko in an effort to install a potentially malleable president in Kyiv. Mr Poroshenko will likely use this concern to leverage his own position in today’s debate, as he seeks a much needed boost in the polls.

Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours. Download The Daily Brief.