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Ex-PM Tymoshenko Launches Bid For Ukrainian Presidency

Yulia Tymoshenko addresses supporters during the Batkivshchyna party congress in Kyiv on January 22.
Yulia Tymoshenko addresses supporters during the Batkivshchyna party congress in Kyiv on January 22.

KYIV -- Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has officially announced she will run for president, with polls showing her as the front-runner in the March presidential election.

"A great country is my goal, from which I will not back down a single step. That is why I am running for president today," she told a congress of her opposition Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party in Kyiv on January 22.

Tymoshenko, 58, has been one of the most prominent figures on the Ukrainian political scene for the past two decades.

She was a leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution together with then-presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko.

Following Yushchenko's victory, she was appointed prime minister but was dismissed less than nine months later amid disputes with the president.

Tymoshenko served as prime minister again between 2007 and 2010 and first ran for president in 2010, but lost to Russia-friendly Viktor Yanukovych.

In 2011, during Yanukovych's term, she was sentenced to seven years in prison for corruption and was released in 2014 when pro-Europe, anticorruption protests led to Yanukovych's ouster.

The same year she ran for a second time for president but was defeated by Petro Poroshenko, who is expected to seek a new term in the March 31 election but has not announced his candidacy.

According to the latest polls, she now appears the favorite to win the presidential vote set for March 31, ahead of incumbent Poroshenko and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

Tymoshenko has presented herself as a pro-NATO, pro-European Union candidate, and has declared her backing for the Ukrainian military, which has been fighting Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine since 2014.

At the start of her speech in Kyiv, she brought on stage dozens of veterans of the conflict.

Prominent figures who have endorsed Tymoshenko include Filaret, leader of one of the main Ukrainian Orthodox communities and the first speaker at the Batkivshchyna nominating congress.

Another supporter is former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who later served as governor of Ukraine's Odesa region but is now a prominent critic of Poroshenko and lives abroad.

With reporting by Christopher Miller in Kyiv, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service, Reuters, AFP, and AP
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