“I will be the candidate of Ukrainian unity,” the 53-year-old said. “The west and center of Ukraine has always voted for me, but I was born in the east, in Dnipropetrovsk.”
However, it remains unclear how popular Tymoshenko is, and whether she can appeal to the nationalists in the west and the pro-Russian elements in the east. The latest opinion polls on the presidential race show oligarch Petro Poroshenko, known as the “chocolate king,” and former heavyweight boxer Vitaly Klitschko in first and second place respectively, well ahead of Tymoshenko.
Whoever wins the vote on 25 May will face a tough task. The International Monetary Fund on Thursday offered a bailout of up to $18bn over two years, in return for harsh economic reforms that may well worsen living standards for the already impoverished population. Further IMF aid will be unlocked if austerity measures are passed, including a sharp rise in the cost of domestic energy. In a first vote on Thursday night, the Ukrainian parliament approved a law required for the IMF bailout.