KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stood subsequent to an empty lectern bearing his election rival’s identify and used a solo look at Ukraine’s largest sports activities stadium Sunday to lash out on the race’s inexperienced front-runner as a “digital candidate.”
Whereas Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a tv comic, has by no means held public workplace, a public opinion survey had him ending far forward of the incumbent president within the April 21 runoff election.
Zelenskiy bought practically twice as many votes as Poroshenko within the election’s first spherical final month, reflecting Ukrainians’ frustration with rampant corruption and weariness with the five-year battle with Russia-backed separatists within the nation’s east.
Poroshenko’s look on the sports activities stadium for a nominal debate was the newest skirmish in a battle of showmanship between the candidates.
Zelenskiy known as for a debate to be held on the venue two days earlier than the runoff vote, in addition to for each candidates to endure drug testing beforehand. Poroshenko mentioned that date would battle with the duty to carry a debate on the studios of the nationwide tv channel.
Each did take drug checks, although at totally different areas, which reportedly got here again clear.
A number of thousand folks stood outdoors the stadium in Kiev listening to the assertion Poroshenko gave inside and the president’s solutions to journalist questions.
Poroshenko as soon as once more belittled his election opponent’s lack of political expertise and alleged the comic’s reliance on social media slightly than direct voter contact made him an unknown amount.
“The Ukrainian folks shouldn’t select a digital candidate,” he mentioned.
“When a candidate flashes on the screens, however says nothing, for almost all it’s only a plot from … ‘Servant of the Individuals’,” he mentioned, referring to the tv sequence wherein Zelenskiy performs a trainer who unexpectedly turns into president after a video of him ranting about corruption goes viral.
“I’ve to say these phrases – the destiny of Ukraine is at risk,” Poroshenko mentioned.
Poroshenko additionally challenged Zelenskiy to participate in a televised debate on Monday. There was no instant response from Zelenskiy’s marketing campaign workers.
Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this story.
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