Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has announced he will run for re-election this March. The incumbent has seen his popularity slide in recent years, but no other candidate has yet emerged with a definitive lead.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko launched his bid for re-election on Tuesday, five years after he first entered office in the wake of the "Euromaidan" protests.
Speaking to supporters in the capital, Kyiv, Poroshenko vowed to continue pushing for Ukraine's accession to the European Union and the NATO military alliance if he won the vote on March 31.
"We have to safeguard integration with the European Union and NATO," he said. "We must not stop half-way there."
Facing down Tymoshenko
The announcement came a week after former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko said she would also run for the top job.
Tymoshenko, who was prime minister from 2007 to 2010, has vowed to retake eastern territory captured by pro-Russian separatists and regain control of Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
On Tuesday, she blamed Poroshenko for the spread of corruption throughout Ukraine since 2014. "He will bear responsibility for destroying the country for five years," she said.
The contest is expected to be tight. Tymoshenko has recently been polling slightly ahead of Poroshenko.
Some polls show a third candidate who played the Ukrainian president in a TV show neck-and-neck with Poroshenko.
Ukraine's sitting president nevertheless has solid backing from senior officials, including the current prime minister, speaker of the parliament and chief prosecutor.
Alongside his pro-EU and NATO rhetoric, the 53-year-old has championed the creation of a Ukrainian Orthodox Church independent of Russia to win support for his re-election campaign.
Months before Poroshenko took office in 2014, his pro-Russian predecessor, Viktor Yanukovych, fled the country in the face of pro-EU protests in Kyiv's Maidan Square.
amp/se (AFP, AP)