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Poroshenko-Zelensky presidential election debate begins at Kiev’s Olympic stadium

April 19, 19:18 UTC+3 KIEV

An audience of up to 60,000 can watch the event live

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© REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

KIEV, April 19. /TASS/. Ukrainian presidential candidates Vladimir Zelensky and Pyotr Poroshenko have begun election debates at Kiev’s Olympic stadium.

An audience of up to 60,000 can watch the event live. Ten thousand police maintain security. The debate will last for sixty minutes.

Incumbent Ukrainian President and Zelensky have shaken hands before the start of the debates at the Olympic Stadium. Both presidential candidates are presenting their speeches on the same stage.

The handshake was met by loud cheers from the stadium's spectators.

Zelensky has stated that he is running for president in order to break the system established by incumbent president Pyotr Poroshenko. "I’m just a man, a simple man, who came to break this system. Pyotr Alekseevich (addressing Poroshenko - TASS), I am the result of your mistakes and promises," Zelensky said in his introductory statement.

Zelensky added that he voted for Poroshenko in the 2014 election.

"The thing is, I supported Poroshenko, but I was wrong. We were wrong. I’ll tell you honestly, how could we have known that his "new life" would mean our "survival", that his "we will end the war in two weeks" would become our Ilovaisk and Debaltsevo, and the "revolution of dignity" would be used by the undeserving," the candidate said.

 Poroshenko has accused his opponent of weakness and inability to run a country during the presidential debates.

"The Ukrainian people have a right to know what the presidential candidate is planning to do if the country is at war, how to defeat the enemy instead of spreading Russian fakes," Poroshenko said.

He also accused Zelensky of being inexperienced, noting that the president himself must lead the country, and not his aides and advisors.

In conclusion, the Ukrainian leader pointed out that "currently, there is only a beautiful expensive wrapping, behind which one can find anything they want: some may find lowered tariffs, some - $4,000 teacher salaries, some - increased pensions, and some - the return to the Russian Federation."

"Vladimir (addressing Zelensky - TASS), you said earlier that you are a cat in a bag. But you’re not a cat, you’re a bag filled with oligarchs," Poroshenko concluded.

Zelensky has told Poroshenko that Zelensky is not his opponent, but his sentence.

"I am not your opponent, Pyotr Alexeyevich [Poroshenko], I am your sentence," he said. "You ask me about war. We are currently at war. And you, as commander-in-chief, must answer it: why is the war not over yet?".

 Zelensky has asked his opponent, why the poorest country in Europe is led by the richest president.

Zelensky asked Poroshenko questions sent to him by Ukraine’s regular citizens. He asked the current Ukrainian leader why the poorest country in Europe is led by the richest president, and how can a person survive on a 1.5 thousand hryvna ($55) pension.

Poroshenko refused to answer Zelensky’s questions, stating that he did not bother to write them down. The Ukrainian president reiterated that Russia is to blame for the current situation in Ukraine, and that before he came to power, the country was in a worse condition. He claimed that he managed to raise international solidarity with Ukraine.

Zelensky stated that he aims to lead a resolute fight against corruption in the country and jail corrupt officials regardless of their party affiliation or political status, he said during the debates in response to the question about the nationalization of Ukraine’s Privatbank.

Zelensky stated that he does not aim to protect anyone from his team if this person has broken the law. "As for Mr. Kolomoisky, here’s what I will tell you. All those Svinarchuks, Gladkovskys (member of Poroshenko’s team - TASS)… and if Kolomoisky is among them, they will all go to jail. But this isn’t done in two weeks. They will go to jail if they break the law," Zelensky said.

On April 18, Kiev’s administrative district court has granted Ukrainian businessman Igor Kolomoisky’s claim on the illegitimacy of the nationalization of Ukraine’s Privatbank, which he founded. Kolomoisky is reported to have ties to Zelensky.

Presidential debate

Around 22,000 people are currently at the Olympic Stadium in Kiev, where the presidential debates are being held.

The runoff of Ukraine’s presidential elections is scheduled for April 21 and will feature head of the Servant of the People party Vladimir Zelensky going up against incumbent President Pyotr Poroshenko. The first round took place on March 31 and saw Zelensky receiving 30.24% of the votes, almost twice as much as Poroshenko, who got 15.95%

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