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Ukrainian Candidates To Engage In TV Debate

15 November 2004 -- Viktor Yushchenko and Viktor Yanukovych, the two candidates who finished in a near draw in the first round of Ukraine's presidential election last month, are set to debate each other on national TV today.

The debate, which is to last about two hours, will be Ukrainians' first chance to see the candidates head to head. Both declined proposals to debate before the first round. A runoff vote takes place on 21 November.

International observers and NGOs criticized the campaign leading up to the first round as biased and undemocratic because of official interference and evident bias toward Yanukovych on state television.

Yanukovych is prime minister and is supported by outgoing President Leonid Kuchma and by the Kremlin. Yushchenko is a Western-leaning reformer.

Concerns about the 21 November runoff sharpened today after Central Election Commission head Serhiy Kivalov said the commission was unready for the vote due to lack of funds.


[For full coverage of Ukraine's presidential elections, see RFE/RL's Ukraine web page.]