Klitschko pulls out of Ukraine presidential race

Boxer backs billionaire Petro Poroshenko in contest against Yulia Tymoshenko

Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) party leader Vitaly Klitschko (C) addresses activists of the Right Sector movement. He has said he will not run for the presidency. Photograph: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters.

Ukrainian Democratic Alliance for Reform (UDAR) party leader Vitaly Klitschko (C) addresses activists of the Right Sector movement. He has said he will not run for the presidency. Photograph: Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters.

Sat, Mar 29, 2014, 14:36

Boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko pulled out of the race to be Ukrainian president today, throwing his weight instead behind billionaire confectioner Petro Poroshenko.

Klitschko’s withdrawal sets up a May 25th contest between the man known as the ‘Chocolate King’ and Ukraine’s former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko.

Mr Poroshenko, 48, confirmed his candidacy last night. Several opinions polls already had him in the lead even before he said he would run to succeed ousted president Viktor Yanukovich.

Mr Poroshenko was an early and influential supporter of the popular uprising that toppled Yanukovich in late February, three months after he spurned a deal on closer ties with the European Union and plunged the country of 46 million people into turmoil.

Ukrainians will vote under the shadow of Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Black Sea Crimea peninsula.

Like Ms Tymoshenko, who announced her candidacy on Thursday, Mr Poroshenko promised to strengthen Ukraine’s armed forces and protect its borders, which the West fears are still under threat from a possible Russian incursion into Russian-speaking regions of eastern Ukraine.

“We need to build a new, efficient and modern Ukrainian army, which will defend the sovereignty and integrity of our country,” Interfax news agency quoted Mr Poroshenko as saying in the town of Vinnitsa southwest of Kiev.

He officially submitted his candidacy to the election authorities in Kiev today.

Klitschko, addressing a meeting of his UDAR (Punch) party, urged supporters to back Mr Poroshenko, and announced he would run instead for mayor of the capital.

“The only chance of winning is to nominate one candidate from the democratic forces,” Klitschko said.

Reuters