KYIV – A fresh opinion poll shows Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a comedic actor with no political experience, far ahead of incumbent Petro Poroshenko just days before Ukraine’s presidential runoff.
The poll issued on April 18 by the research group Reiting showed Zelenskiy with 57.9 percent of the vote and Poroshenko at 21.7 percent. Reiting polled 3,000 voters in all regions, except annexed Crimea, from April 12-16.
A previous poll by Reiting from April 5-10 gave Zelenskiy 61 percent while Poroshenko received 24 percent.
Zelenskiy, who stars on a TV comedy series about a teacher who becomes president after denouncing corruption, won nearly twice as many votes as Poroshenko in the first round of voting on March 31.
Poroshenko’s popularity has plummeted as many Ukrainians blame him for the country’s slow pace of reform and for failing to tackle corruption.
The fresh opinion poll comes a day ahead of a key debate between the two candidates at Kyiv’s 70,000-seat Olimpiyskiy Stadium.
Writing on Twitter on April 17, Zelenskiy said 12,000 seats had been booked just a half hour after the free tickets were made available to the public.
The two men took drug tests earlier this month at Zelenskiy’s insistence in a campaign that has been marked by theatrics on both sides.
Poroshenko’s campaign team said on April 17 that supporters will be bused in for free for the event, according to Interfax.
Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said a crowd of “up to 60,000” was expected to attend the debate and that security would be beefed up.
His comments on April 17 come after Ukrainian authorities announced they had captured a Russian military intelligence hit squad responsible for the attempted murder of a Ukrainian military spy ahead of the presidential runoff.
The issue of how to deal with Russia, which annexed Crimea in 2014 and backs separatists in eastern Ukraine, is prominent ahead of the vote, with Poroshenko casting himself as the commander in chief Ukraine needs to defend the country.