KYIV (Reuters) -- European Union officials urged Ukraine today to hold a free and fair presidential election in January to help it advance toward integration with Europe.
The ex-Soviet state is holding on January 17 its first election for president since the 2004 pro-Western Orange Revolution, against a backdrop of a poorly performing economy and tension with Russia on which it relies for energy supplies.
"We expect these elections to be free and fair as has happened in the past, and after the elections that there will be a commitment for strong governance so that Ukraine can advance towards its legitimate European aspirations," European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said.
Barroso was speaking at a news conference with Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko after a one-day annual summit in Kyiv.
Yushchenko is running for reelection in January but opinion polls suggest he has little chance against Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his fierce rival, and ex-Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych.