Ukraine comedian Zelenskiy to meet Macron before presidential run-off | Eurasia Diary -

22 July, Monday

Ukraine comedian Zelenskiy to meet Macron before presidential run-off

Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy is heading to Paris to meet the French president. He is predicted to win the presidential election run-off, despite his only political experience of playing the president in a TV show.

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Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a political novice and favourite to win Kiev's presidential vote, will head to Paris Friday to meet French President Emmanuel Macron. 

While many dismissed as a joke his bid to lead Ukraine – a country at war with Moscow-backed rebels – Zelenskiy defeated President Petro Poroshenko in the presidential vote's first round. Polls predict he will also win the election's run-off next Sunday. 

The actor, whose only political experience is playing the president in a TV show, is due to meet Macron at the Elysee palace. 

Poroshenko, meanwhile, will head to Berlin to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel, before also meeting Macron in Paris later the same day. 

The Ukrainian leader said the pre-election talks in France and Germany are crucial for "the fate of the Ukrainian state and of European security". 

They were "especially important", he said, in the face of "attempts" to lift Western sanctions against Russia, imposed on Moscow after its 2014 annexation of Ukraine's Crimea peninsula. 

France and Germany are part of the so-called Normandy peace talks with Ukraine and Russia that aim to end a conflict between Kiev and the Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. The war has killed 13,000 people over the past five years.

Kiev and its Western allies accuse Russia of supporting the rebels militarily. Moscow denies that. 

Poroshenko, a 53-year-old former foreign minister, has positioned himself as the only candidate able to stand up to the Kremlin.

He is eager to make up lost ground before the run-off vote by showing off his experience and oratory. 

Zelenskiy has said he will only debate Poroshenko in Kiev's Olympic Stadium, which seats over 70,000 people. The Ukrainian president has agreed, but the pair have so far given different dates for the event. 

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