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Gas and conflict dominate Ukraine vote

Friday, October 24, 2014 - 02:28

President Poroshenko's bloc holds a lead ahead of Ukraine's election, according to opinion polls, with a rising populist party set to take second place. Ukraine's prime minister says he fears Russia might disrupt the vote, but a row over gas supplies does appear to be easing. Sara Hemrajani reports.

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Darth Vader is back - not in a galaxy far, far away but in Ukraine. The Star Wars character is the guise of the Internet Party's candidate in upcoming elections. Ballot boxes open on Sunday for Ukraine's first parliamentary poll since Victor Yanukovich was ousted from power in February. The results are expected to make President Petro Poroshenko's bloc - campaigning on a "pro-European, anti-corruption" platform - the leading force. ING's Carsten Brzeski. SOUNDBITE: Carsten Brzeski, senior economist, ING, saying (English): "The Ukraine situation looks from an investor's point of view as if it has calmed down. So therefore the elections will be very important because it could either lead to a further calming of the situation, also through the eyes of investors, or we're going to get the opposite, namely more uncertainty and new chaos." Set to take second place is Oleh Lyashko and his populist Radical Party. The outspoken politician is known for his hardline stance against the Kremlin and he's often criticised Poroshenko for his contacts with Vladamir Putin. Russia's relationship with Ukraine is certainly high on the agenda. Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk has accused Moscow of planning to disrupt Sunday's election. And with violence still simmering in the east, IG's Chris Beauchamp says the unrest there shouldn't be ignored. SOUNDBITE: Chris Beauchamp, market analyst, IG, saying (English): "The conflict does continue to rumble along at a very low level, especially around Donetsk. So the idea that elections will somehow make all this go away is probably a mistaken one. And in fact, it may make things worse because you've got the separatist republics calling for their own elections, which is going to be a major point of contention for the government in Kiev." An unresolved row over gas between Ukraine and Russia is another source of tension. But Germany's Angela Merkel says the EU is discussing a bridging loan to Kiev, to allow the country to pay for Russian gas deliveries in advance. And Ukraine's national energy company, Naftogaz, says it's agreed to pay off 3.1 billion dollars towards its debt to Gazprom. As winter approaches, any serious energy shortages would push Ukraine's economy to the brink of collapse. And that could be felt sooner than usual. With temperatures over the election weekend set to drop below zero, Ukrainian authorities are switching on heating in apartments ten days ahead of time.

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Gas and conflict dominate Ukraine vote

Friday, October 24, 2014 - 02:28