(The Guardian) Chocolate tycoon heads for landslide victory in Ukraine presidential election – Petro Poroshenko has faced down protesters and rivals to lead the opinion polls before the first round of voting on Sunday. For a man with presidential ambitions, it was not a propitious scene. Petro Poroshenko stood atop a bulldozer between a line of police and an angry crowd chanting expletives at him. Shouting into a loudhailer he urged calm, asking protesters to desist from storming the presidential headquarters in Kiev.
Hardcore elements in the crowd didn't like his speech; they responded with jeers of "dickhead" and "Jew trash". (Actually, Poroshenko is a Christian.) Someone dragged him off his perch. Others managed to rescue him from this seething frontline. Masked youths grabbed the tractor and used it as a battering ram to force a path though police. Clouds of smoke billowed across Ukraine's warring capital.
This was early December. Six months later Poroshenko is on the brink of becoming Ukraine's new president. Opinion polls suggest he will win the first round of Sunday's presidential election by a landslide. Such is his lead he may even beat his nearest rival, former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, in the first round, avoiding the need for a run-off vote on 15 June. […]
"Poroshenko was on the Maidan [central square in Kiev]. But at the same time he escaped unpopular decisions," said Olexiy Haran, a professor of comparative politics in the capital. "He managed to present himself as balanced, reasonable and successful." Even when he popped up on Maidan, paying for food, water and firewood for protesters, he was careful to play both sides. "Russia isn't our opponent, but our partner," he told the liberal Moscow newspaper Novaya Gazeta. "Understand, Euro-Maidan is not a movement away from Russia, but from the Soviet Union."
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