Ukraine's 'Orange heroine' to bid for the presidency
YULIA Tymoshenko, the leader of Ukraine's 2004 'Orange Revolution', has opened her campaign to become president, pledging to defend the country from Russian "aggression".
Ms Tymoshenko said she would contest May's presidential elections on a platform of firm opposition to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, describing him as "the No 1 enemy of Ukraine".
Her announcement came as news emerged that Ukraine has secured an emergency bailout of up to $18bn (€13bn) from the International Monetary Fund to stave off imminent default. However, it will get no debt relief and will be forced to slash spending amid dangerous civil conflict.
Critics say the package may be too small to stabilise the country as it spirals into depression with wafer-thin foreign reserves. It is also braced for a fuel shock as Russia's Gazprom doubles the cost of energy overnight in a move described by Washington as political harassment.
The former prime minister Ms Tymoshenko (53) will join a colourful race that is also expected to include the boxer Vitali Klitschko and Petro Poroshenko, a billionaire chocolate baron who helped finance anti-government protests.
The political party of Viktor Yanukovych, the country's ousted president, is also in the process of choosing a candidate and will formally expel him from its ranks as part of a rebranding effort.
Ms Tymoshenko's bid for office comes just a month after she was released from jail for what were widely seen as trumped-up corruption charges brought by the Yanukovych regime.
With Ukrainians now fearing a full-scale Russian invasion, she pledged to build up a strong army and address widespread discontent in the mainly Russian-speaking east.
She even said she would try to secure the return of Crimea, which was annexed by Mr Putin.
"I am convinced that I will be able to defend the country from aggression," she said."
With her distinctive braided hairstyle, and role as the heroine of Ukraine's previous revolution in 2004, Ms Tymoshenko is arguably the best known of the country's politicians internationally. But her global profile is no guarantee of victory in her homeland, where there is now a growing weariness with leaders associated with the turmoil of the last decade.
Swept to office after the Orange Revolution, Ms Tymoshenko squandered the goodwill she initially enjoyed by squabbling with other leaders. She is blamed by many Ukrainians for allowing Mr Yanukovych to win power in 2010. (© Daily Telegraph, London)