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Ukrainian Presidential Front-Runner Pledges To Hold Referendum On NATO

Volodymyr Zelenskiy said it was critical to build a nationwide consensus on joining the alliance.
Volodymyr Zelenskiy said it was critical to build a nationwide consensus on joining the alliance.

Ukrainian presidential front-runner Volodymyr Zelenskiy has pledged to hold a referendum on whether or not Kyiv should join NATO if he is elected president.

Zelenskiy, a comic actor who is far ahead in the polls ahead of the April 21 election pitting him against incumbent Petro Poroshenko, said on April 18 that "we have clearly chosen our path to Europe."

But he said it was critical to build a nationwide consensus on joining the alliance.

"It's obvious that NATO means security and a high level of [our] military, but I want to unite the country," he told RBK Ukraine.

Zelenskiy added that he would work to convince people in the mostly Russian-speaking eastern parts of Ukraine to overcome their negative view of NATO.

"I will record daily video appeals to the eastern regions of Ukraine to tell them that NATO isn't a beast that is going to swallow you," he said.

Poroshenko has pushed for Ukrainian membership in NATO and the European Union, though membership in either grouping is unlikely due to the country's rampant corruption and five-year-long conflict with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Zelenskiy also said he would push for early parliamentary elections if elected president as the unicameral Verkhovna Rada is controlled by Poroshenko's ruling party. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for October. He said early elections were part of his idea of a "renewal" of Ukraine's ruling class.

Zelenskiy added on April 18 that he would include former Finance Minister Oleksandr Danylyuk in his government if he was elected president. Danylyuk was fired from his post in 2018 and joined Zelenskiy's campaign team earlier this year.

The latest opinion poll, conducted by the Rating agency, shows Zelenskiy with 58 percent support while Poroshenko has just 22 percent.

With reporting by AP and Ukrinform
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