UK & World News

  • 29 March 2014, 16:37

Klitschko Rules Out Run For Ukraine Presidency

Ukrainian politician and former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko had declared he will not run for president of the country.

Mr Klitschko, 42, the leader of Ukraine's Democratic Alliance for Reform party and a key figure during Ukraine's Euromaiden protests, said he would support billionaire businessman Petro Poroshenko instead.

"The only way to win is by nominating a single candidate from the democratic ranks," Mr Klitschko said. "This should be a candidate with the greatest support from the people."

Mr Poroshenko, who also played a central role in the protests which lead to the ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych, is already ahead in the polls.

The announcement will boost Poroshenko's standing among ordinary Ukrainians who see Klitschko's support as key to the man known as the 'Chocolate King' delivering on promises of reform.

Mr Poroshenko said the political forces that brought down Mr Yanukovych must stick together to tackle the huge economic and security challenges facing Ukraine.

"I'm convinced it would be a betrayal of Maidan if we were not united," he told a meeting of Klitschko's party.

Former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has also announced her candidacy, joined her Batkivshchyna party for a rally in Kiev on Saturday.

She promised supporters she would take a no-nonsense approach if Russia sought to use its annexing of Crimea as a stepping stone to military intervention in Ukraine.

The region voted overwhelmingly to join Russia in a hastily-arranged referendum earlier this month, which has been condemned by the United Nations.

On Saturday, Russia's foreign minister denied any intention to invade Ukraine in a televised interview.

"We have absolutely no intention or interests in crossing the borders of Ukraine," Sergei Lavrov said.

The US has voiced concerns about the reported massing of up to 40,000 Russian troops on Ukraine's borders.

Mr Lavrov's remarks came after Russian President Vladimir Putin has phoned his US counterpart to discuss a diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine.

During an hour-long conversation with Barack Obama, he was urged to write down a "concrete response" to US proposals for resolving tensions in the region.

The call, described by a senior Obama administration official as "frank and direct", is believed to be the first direct conversation between the two leaders since sanctions were imposed on Mr Putin's inner circle.

US Secretary of State John Kerry has announced he is to fly to Paris on Sunday to hold talks with his Russian counterpart on the crisis.

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