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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kuchma Launches Campaign For Presidential Re-election

SOROCHYNTSY, Ukraine -- Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma hugged supporters and tasted the local beer at the opening of Ukraine's most famous fair as he kicked off his campaign for the presidential election on Oct. 31.

Lashing out at what he said were his rivals' KGB tactics, he urged voters Thursday to think hard about their choice of the next leader of Ukraine.

"Until now I have practically not started my campaign, I can say only today I have started working for the future election," Kuchma said at a news conference after visiting the Sorochyntsy Fair.

Kuchma, accompanied by Moldova President Petru Lucinschi and local dignitaries, threw on a straw hat before wading into the crowd to shake hands, taste offerings and listen to voters.

Campaigning by other candidates has been in full swing since the official start of the campaign on Aug. 1. The last of 15 candidates running for president were registered only this week.

Radical leftist Natalya Vitrenko said in her campaign platform published Thursday that she would suspend any cooperation with the International Monetary Fund and freeze payments on state debts to use funds for domestic needs.

Parliamentary speaker Olexander Tkachenko said Wednesday reform had brought a once proud Ukraine to its knees and called for socially oriented economic policy.

Kuchma said the economy would be his main challenge and his priority during the second term. He favors closer integration with neighboring Russia as well as with the West.

Candidates from across the political spectrum have been vocal in their complaints so far, accusing Kuchma and each other of dirty campaigning.

A number of small independent TV stations have been quietly closed down, officially for technical reasons.

Visitors at the fair seemed apathetic about the elections.

"I am not for anyone. No one does anything for ordinary people," said Hanna, a pensioner.