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Ukraine Elections Come Amid Deep Recession, Conflict

President Petro Poroshenko faces a test of his unpopular belt-tightening measures when Ukraine votes in local elections on October 25.

The polls, which will exclude the pro-Russian separatist east, come during a lull in fighting but as the country suffers a devastating recession that has turned it into Europe's second-poorest country.

Twenty months have passed since the ex-Soviet state toppled a Kremlin-backed leader and turned toward the West.

But Russia's subsequent annexation of Crimea and the Moscow-backed eastern revolt that followed stripped the country of its industrial heartland and strategic naval bases, ultimately crippling its economy.

In the wake of these events, the popularity of Poroshenko's government has fallen so sharply that Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk's approval ratings are now barely above zero.

The public's frustration at the West's refusal to arm Ukraine and only provide financial help, with tough austerity strings attached, has bolstered the odds of the far right and the pro-Russian groups gaining ground, analysts say.

Such an outcome could prompt Poroshenko's loosely knit coalition to splinter, which would in turn imperil his plans to move further toward the West.

Based on reporting by AFP