Ukraine Holds Runoff Presidential Election

Brenda Watkins
April 22, 2019

Ukrainian presidential candidate and popular comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy listens to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during their final electoral campaign debate at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019.

The current president has conceded defeat and congratulated the comedian.

"I have grown up under the old politicians and have only seen empty promises, lies, and corruption", said Lyudmila Potrebko, a 22-year-old computer programmer who cast her ballot for Zelenskiy.

Zelenskiy has not clarified precise details regarding how to achieve his aims, however, as investors and allies seek assurances that he will take what the West regards as the necessary measures to attract investment and retain membership of the nation in the International Monetary Fund. William Taylor, a former USA ambassador to Ukraine who co-leads a National Democratic Institute delegation of global observers, said the election result would have an impact around the world. "Perhaps nothing will change".

"These people are much more keen to talk up Ukraine's achievements over the past five years: there's visa-free travel to Europe, there's been sweeping banking-sector reform, there have been anti-corruption institutions put in place - although they're not working very well", he added.

Zelenskiy said on Sunday he planned to continue European-backed talks with Russian Federation on a so far largely unimplemented peace deal and would try to free Ukrainians imprisoned in Russian Federation, which is holding 24 Ukrainian sailors among others.

Viktor Medvedchuk, the Kremlin's closest ally in Ukraine, last week outlined ways in which Ukraine and Russian Federation could mend ties in the event of a Zelenskiy presidency, though Zelenskiy has given no indication of being open to the offer.

London climate change activists continue protest after more than 700 arrested
Climate change activists hold placards as demonstrators continue to block the road at Oxford Circus in London on April 20, 2019. Home Secretary Sajid Javid has urged police to use the "full force of the law" to deal with illegal demonstrations.

"We have united Ukraine", he said, wearing a casual suit with a t-shirt and accompanied by his wife.

"I will never let you down", Zelensky told jubilant supporters at his Kiev campaign headquarters where he was showered with glittering confetti after the exit polls were released. Poroshenko also said a Zelenskiy win would derail Ukraine's chances of integrating into the European Union (EU).

Meanwhile, Zelenskiy remains something of an unknown quantity and faces scrutiny over his ties to a powerful oligarch called Ihor Kolomoisky, whose TV channel broadcasts his shows.

Ivan Bakanov, Mr Zelensky's campaign chief, led a team that spent three days in Washington last week holding meetings at the White House, the State Department and Congress.

Zelenskiy has rejected those accusations.

But its fate hangs in the balance after a Kiev court ruled days before the election that the change of PrivatBank's ownership was illegal, delighting Kolomoisky but rocking the central bank which said it would appeal. Like his sitcom character, a teacher thrust into the presidency after a video of him blasting corruption goes viral, he focused his campaign on fighting graft, riding the wave of public distrust of Ukraine's political elite.

A lack of reform since the 2014 revolution has fuelled support for the outsider promising to fight corruption and leave after one term.

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