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Ukrainian Presidential Hopefuls to Meet in Stadium Debate

The incumbent Poroshenko accepts Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s challenge to a drug- and alcohol-free contest.

5 April 2019

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko will debate presidential candidate and comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium ahead of the 21 April runoff election.


Poroshenko, who has held presidential office since 2014, has also agreed to Zelenskiy’s terms of a pre-debate drug and alcohol test, Politico reports.



Zelenskiy, an actor who plays an ordinary man-turned-president on the satirical television show “Servant of the People,” easily won the first round of the Ukrainian presidential election on Sunday. His campaign, which he has run almost exclusively on social media, has focused on playing on his lack of political experience, according to Reuters.


Poroshenko challenged Zelenskiy to a policy debate, and on Wednesday, Zelenskiy accepted the challenge in a video in which he laid out his conditions, which included the debate being held in the 70,000-seat Olympic Stadium, the BBC reports. The video also included a countdown clock, giving Poroshenko 24 hours to agree to the terms of the debate.


Poroshenko responded with his own video agreeing to the terms. In it, he stated, “Debate is not a show … This is no time to joke around. Being a president and commander in chief is not a game,” Reuters reports.


Since posting the video, Zelenskiy has called for the debate to be moderated by former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who finished third in the first round of the election and who has a longstanding rivalry with Poroshenko.


Poroshenko did not participate in debates during the 2014 presidential race, Reuters says.



  • Zelenskiy’s Instagram account has 3.3 million followers, more than Emmanuel Macron, Angela Merkel, Theresa May, and Giuseppe Conte combined.


  • On Wednesday, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov announced a ban on unscheduled flights from Ukraine to Russia, citing an incident last month in which presidential candidate Yuriy Boiko and pro-Russian For Life party official Viktor Medvedchuk took a direct flight to Moscow, RFE/RL reports. Ukraine cut off direct regular air service in 2015.
Compiled by Eliza Siegel
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