It is risky to see hopeful trends in the Ukrainian crisis. But a degree of calm seems to have settled over the rebellious southeast, which may bode well for the presidential election scheduled for Sunday. There are many things Moscow and its minions in Ukraine can still do to derail the election, of course, but President Vladimir Putin of Russia has refrained from publicly endorsing the “people’s republics” proclaimed by secessionists. His spokesman said on Monday that he had ordered Russian troops to pull back from the Ukrainian border, though NATO has not seen any change yet. It is crucial for the vote to be accepted by all sides so Moscow can stop referring to the interim administration as the “illegitimate regime in Kiev,” and the elected president can begin to repair the enormous economic and social damage suffered by Ukraine in recent months. But the election itself will not solve Ukraine’s problems unless a new president can also address the deep corruption and cronyism that have been a hallmark of Ukrainian government since independence in 1991. The front-runner in the presidential race is Petro Poroshenko, a 48-year-old tycoon known as the Chocolate King for his candy empire.
Mr. Poroshenko has political strengths: he was the first and only Ukrainian oligarch to join the protesters in Kiev that led to President Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster in February; he favors a trade pact with the European Union; and he has been deeply involved in Ukrainian politics almost from the outset. But the fact is, Mr. Poroshenko is also a member of the clique of very rich businessmen who have been at the root of the corruption of Ukrainian government. So are two of his rivals in the race — Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister who made a fortune in energy deals, and Sergey Tigipko, a banker and member of Parliament.
Two other oligarchs, Rinat Akhmetov, the richest Ukrainian of them all, and Igor Kolomoisky, a banker who was recently appointed governor of Dnepropetrovsk Province, have recently become active in repelling secessionists in southeastern Ukraine — Mr. Akhmetov by sending his steel and mining workers to recover occupied buildings in Mariupol and Makeyevka, and Mr. Kolomoisky by offering bounties for arms and captured “terrorists.”
Full Article: A Critical Election in Ukraine – NYTimes.com.