Russia, Pro-Russians Bully Ukraine Presidential Candidates

Russia, Pro-Russians Bully Ukraine Presidential Candidates

Ukraine’s presidential elections are Sunday, May 25, and two candidates have already felt resistance from Russia and pro-Russians in Ukraine. Moscow upheld an order to freeze the accounts of leading candidate Petro Poroshenko’s chocolate business, and rebels burned down Sergiy Tigipko’s office in Donetsk.

Poroshenko (pictured) is ahead by 40% and expected to win on Sunday. He told Ukraine News One the seizure is proof he is “on the right track politically.”

Poroshenko is known as the Chocolate King in Ukraine. He owns Roshen, “Ukraine’s biggest confectionary company which has factories across eastern Europe and in Russia.” Moscow courts effectively cut off Roshen’s access to $72 million held in Russian accounts. The courts froze the accounts on March 14 after state-owned Russian company United Confectioners said Roshen infringed on “its trademark on former Soviet brand ‘Lastochka.'”

The backlash may or may not be connected to the fact that Poroshenko wants the new government in Kyiv to move Ukraine towards Europe and away from Russia. He did serve as trade minister under Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovych, but Russia first took action against Roshen in June 2013, banning imports of the company due to quality concerns.

Tigipko is in second place at 9%, but he seeks to represent a government the pro-Russians in east Ukraine do not recognize. On May 11, Donetsk held a referendum and said 90% of the people voted for independence from Ukraine to form the “Donetsk People’s Republic.” The new government has made it known there will not be a Ukrainian presidential election in the DPR. Pro-Russian forces attacked Tigipko’s Donetsk office Saturday night, but Ukrainian forces were able to fight them off. One of the rebels was killed, and the forces lit the building on fire with Molotov cocktails. From Bloomberg News:

“Armed radicals are interested in escalating tensions,” Tigipko’s office said in a statement late yesterday. “Thus the interests of radicals are in fundamental conflict with the interests of the residents of Donbass, who want security for themselves and their children, the order of the street, stable and predictable economic environment.”