Ukrainian presidential candidates trade insults in rowdy stadium debate

Sergio Conner
April 20, 2019

Comic actor Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a political novice who plays a fictional president in a popular TV series, has kept his lead in Ukraine's presidential election race, according to an opinion poll published on Thursday.

The hour-long debate in the stadium, an unprecedented spectacle in Ukraine's modern history, came after Zelenskiy challenged Poroshenko to meet him there.

Mr Zelensky has relied on a slick social media campaign to tap into the frustration of many younger Ukrainians with establishment politicians.

"We only have a handsome and bright sweet wrapper in which everyone can find what he is looking for", said an emotional Poroshenko. Poroshenko, a billionaire who was elected off the back of the 2014 revolution that toppled Ukraine's Russian-backed president, has painted himself as a strong war-time leader capable of standing up to Russia.

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Ukraine's president has faced his comedian challenger for a grandiose, vitriolic debate at Kiev's Olympic stadium on Friday in a last-ditch attempt to win a second term.

Zelensky claimed 30.24 percent in the first round of the election on March 31, beating Poroshenko with an nearly twofold advantage (15.95 percent).

Ukraine's presidential rivals have traded insults in front of tens of thousands of people during their first and only debate. "A president should be a person". "I'm not your opponent; I'm your verdict". Zelenskiy said. As he has previously, he warned Poroshenko that he might one day face criminal charges.

The two took the tests, but afterwards struggled to agree a date. When this was sorted out, Zelensky suddenly chose to kiss his girlfriend to the tune of the anthem and showed thumbs up to the stadium. A poll this week by research body Reiting showed Zelenskiy at 57.9% of votes, with Poroshenko at 21.7%.

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