Wed, 24 Apr 2019

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko traveled on April 12 to Berlin and Paris to seek international support ahead of the April 21 runoff.

His challenger Volodymyr Zelenskiy traveled only to Paris where he met French President Emmanuel Macron, who separately met with Poroshenko as well.

In Berlin, Poroshenko met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel who praised the 'very close relations' her country has built with Ukraine in recent years.

At a joint news conference, Merkel deflected a question about the impression that she favors Poroshenko in the election. She said that she is in 'permanent contact' with the incumbent.

Her spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said a meeting with Zelenskiy 'is not planned at present.'

'We have built very close relations in the last few years,' Merkel said. She added that 'implementing democratic change is a complicated process.... Ukraine has made progress here, but certainly is not at the end of the road.'

Germany, France, and Ukraine are part of the so-called Normandy Format of countries seeking a resolution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where Russia-backed separatists are fighting against Kyiv government forces.

Russia is the fourth country in the format, which has not held talks in two years.

'We must continue on this path, because it is the only one I can see on which we can really make progress,' Merkel said, adding that she favors continuing four-way talks between Ukraine, Russia, Germany, and France.

'There have been successes in some areas, but a great deal of work remains to be done on many things, so Germany will continue independently of the outcome of the election to support the positive and good development of Ukraine,' Merkel said.

Poroshenko said he would be prepared to hold a summit 'immediately after the election.'

He later met Macron in Paris.

After his meeting, Poroshenko released pictures on social media of himself and a smiling Macron looking comfortable and close together on the steps of the Elysee Palace.

'Happy to meet with Ukraine's sincere friend,' he wrote on Twitter.

Macron first hosted comic actor Zelenskiy who told journalists that his meeting with the French president was held in a very nice, warm atmosphere.

The meeting was very constructive. I met a leader of a united Europe. I liked it. The meeting was constructive. We discussed the most important issues for Ukrainian society and for Ukraine, he said.

His campaign chief, Ivan Bakanov, told AFP that the two discussed the conflict in eastern Ukraine, corruption, economic reforms and, 'of course, the second-round runoff.

According to preelection surveys Zelenskiy -- a comedian and political newcomer -- is the favorite to win the presidential runoff.

Zelenskiy won the first round by a wide margin over Poroshenko, but he did not receive enough support to avoid the runoff.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, dpa, and AP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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