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Ukraine Opposition Wants Boxing Champ to Help Sink Ruling Party

Ukrainian opposition united under jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko wants to team up with boxing champion Vitali Klitschko’s party to win a parliamentary majority in this week’s election.

While Klitschko has so far been silent on joining the united opposition before the Oct. 28 election, “the door is still open,” according to leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who pledges to free Tymoshenko and revive ties with the European Union if his efforts to topple President Viktor Yanukovych’s ruling party succeed.

“We need to move Ukraine to the EU -- I am open to accept any proposals Klitschko has,” Yatsenyuk, 38, said in an Oct. 19 interview in his office in the capital, Kiev.

Yatsenyuk’s united opposition, for which he tops the party list, is polling third, behind Yanukovych’s Party of Regions in first and Klitschko’s UDAR in second. Tymoshenko’s conviction for abuse of office when premier and seven-year sentence, handed down last October, prompted the EU to freeze a planned Association Agreement with Ukraine. Yanukovych denies accusations the case against her is politically motivated.

Yanukovych beat Tymoshenko in a February 2010 presidential election, winning 49 percent to her 45 percent. Yatsenyuk came fourth in a first round of voting. Jailing the former prime minister was Yanukovych’s “biggest mistake,” according to the opposition leader.

‘Presidential Failure’

“It is a presidential failure,” Yatsenyuk said. “This mistake heavily affected Ukraine. This is the key impediment to our road to the European Union -- it is what we have to change.”

Tymoshenko’s Batkivshchyna party joined forces with Yatsenyuk’s Front Zmin in April, with the nationalist party Svoboda signing a coalition pact with them Oct. 19 as opposition politicians unite in the battle for the 450-seat legislature.

Klitschko has said he isn’t ready to join the three parties, according to Yatsenyuk, who said he was “astonished” by the decision.

The Party of Regions was backed by 23.3 percent of voters, while Batkivshchyna was supported by 15.1 percent, a Sept. 18- Oct. 4 survey by the Kiev-based Democratic Initiative Fund showed. UDAR, which means punch, had 16 percent, Svoboda has 5.1 percent, and the communists, part of an existing coalition with Yanukovych’s party, had 10.1 percent, according to the poll of 2,043 eligible voters, whose margin of error was 2.2 percent.

International Standards

The EU has called on the government to ensure the election meets international standards, with the 27-member bloc’s Foreign Affairs Representative Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule calling it “a litmus test of Ukraine’s democratic credentials” in a joint statement Oct. 12.

While Yanukovych has pledged the ballot will be free and fair, violations could further harm the former Soviet republic’s aspirations of tighter EU integration and push it closer to Russia, according to Yatsenyuk.

“If the elections are undemocratic, if the elections are rigged, the future of Ukraine is very vague,” he said. “The future of Ukraine will be correlated with the past.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Daryna Krasnolutska in Kiev at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Balazs Penz at

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