Ukraine held its presidential elections on Sunday, choosing the top two out of 39 candidates for a runoff on April 21st. Incumbent President Petro Poroshenko, an oligarch, will face down comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, who is backed by one of Poroshenko’s oligarch adversaries. It’s the second chance Ukrainians have had to pick their leader since a democratic revolution deposed their last president, Viktor Yanukovych, in 2014. Shortly after the revolution, Russia annexed Crimea and backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine in a conflict that’s claimed 13,000 lives to date. The revolution and war led to massive divestment, and Ukraine became the poorest country in Europe late last year. Zelensky, who secured the most votes, rose to prominence recently, starring in a TV sitcom about a school teacher-turned-president. In recent weeks, Zelensky upset third-place winner Yulia Tymoshenko, an energy tycoon and perennial candidate who was notably jailed by the Yanukovych regime. Second-place Poroshenko defended his track record fighting off Russian separatists, but couldn’t say the same about the ballooning effects of corruption, out-migration, and poverty in Ukraine. Joining us is William J. Risch, Associate Professor of History at Georgia College and State University. He’s author of The Ukrainian West: Culture and the Fate of Empire in Soviet Lviv.
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