x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Tymoshenko: I will be the candidate of Ukrainian unity in elections

Her announcement came as the International Monetary Fund pledged up to US$18 billion in loans to prop up Ukraine’s teetering economy

Yulia Tymoshenko announced on Thursday she would run again for president in an election on May 25. Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters
Yulia Tymoshenko announced on Thursday she would run again for president in an election on May 25. Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

KIEV // Former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, one of her country’s most polarising political figures, announced on Thursday that she will run for presidential elections set for May 25.

Her announcement came as the International Monetary Fund pledged up to US$18 billion (Dh66bn) in loans on Thursday to prop up Ukraine’s teetering economy, and the prime minister warned that everyone is going to feel some pain from the necessary financial reforms ahead.

Ms Tymoshenko, who was released from jail last month following the overthrow of her political rival, President Viktor Yanukovich, said she would stand to protect the unity of Ukraine.

Presidential elections are taking place against the backdrop of dismal economic conditions, Russia’s annexation of Crimea and rumblings of discontent in the country’s mainly Russian-speaking eastern provinces.

“I will be the candidate of Ukrainian unity,” Ms Tymoshenko said. “The west and centre of Ukraine has always voted for me, but I was born in the east, in Dnipropetrovsk.”

This will be her second attempt to secure the presidency. She narrowly lost to Mr Yanukovich in 2010.

Her renewed ascent to the forefront of public life marks the return of the most divisive figures in Ukraine’s political scene. She is variously admired as an icon of democracy and detested as a self-promoting manipulator with a shady past.

In a lengthy, passionate address to parliament, interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk warned that Ukraine was “on the brink of economic and financial bankruptcy” and laid out the fixes needed to put the country back on track.

“The time has come to tell the truth, to do difficult and unpopular things,” Mr Yatsenyuk said. “The country is short 289bn hryvna ($25.8bn), which is practically equivalent to the entire state budget for this year.”

The IMF loan, which is expected to range between $14bn and $18bn, hinges on structural reforms that Ukraine has pledged to undertake.

Ukraine’s new government finds itself caught between the demands of international creditors and a restive population that has endured decades of economic stagnation, corruption and mismanagement. Those reforms — which included raising taxes, a freeze on the minimum wage and higher energy prices — will hit households hard and are likely to strain the interim government’s tenuous hold on power.

Ukraine, a nation of 46 million people, is battling to instil some semblance of normality since Mr Yanukovich was removed from power in February after months of protests ignited by his decision to back away from closer relations with the EU in favour of deepening economic ties with Russia. Over the last few weeks, Ukraine has lost the Crimean Peninsula to annexation by Russia and is now bracing for a turbulent political season ahead of the May 25 presidential election.

* Associated Press