Former world boxing champion and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko announced on Saturday that he will not run in the Ukrainian presidential elections set to be held on May 25.
Klitschko was considered a strong potential candidate for the office, but the UDAR party member will instead run for mayor of Kiev. He said he will support fellow protest leader and billionaire candy maker, Petro Poroshenko, for the office of president.
Saturday’s announcement is seen as a move to diminish former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko’s chances of returning to power. Based on polls taken in mid-March, Poroshenko appears to be the front runner.
Candidacy announcements and discussions took place throughout Kiev on Saturday with the deadline for submitting bids for the elections approaching on Sunday.
Ousted prime minister Viktor Yanukovych addressed the elections on Friday and discussed the need for a nation-wide referendum about turning Ukraine into a federation.
“Only an all-Ukrainian referendum, not the early presidential elections, could to a large extent stabilize the political situation and preserve Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Yanukovych said in a statement via the ITAR-Tass news agency.
Russia has been a proponent for federalization despite rejections from the interim government in Kiev.
Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone with President Barack Obama for an hour on Friday to discuss a possible diplomatic solution to the crisis in Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had proposed the solution to his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov earlier this week. Putin and Obama decided that Kerry and Lavrov will meet to address the issue.
With concerns rising that Russia will advance further into Ukraine, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said Putin had reassured him that there would be no new movement into the country.