Foreign Policy Digital

In Ukraine’s Election, Pro-Russian Candidates Can’t Win

By occupying the regions of the country that most favor it, Moscow has undermined its own position in Ukrainian politics. Here’s why it still won’t leave.

Whatever happens in the second round of Ukraine’s elections later this month, a pro-Russian candidate will not become Ukraine’s next president. Five years after Russia annexed Crimea and launched a war in the country’s Donbass region, the Kremlin’s influence in Ukraine is at the lowest level in at least a century.

True, Russia continues to control 7 percent of Ukraine’s territory, which neither incumbent Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko nor his second-round opponent, the comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, has a strategy for retaking. Even though the country’s military has improved since 2014, Ukraine can’t retake the territory by force given Russia’s massive military advantage.

In the other 93 percent of Ukraine, however, things have not gone in the Kremlin’s favor. For Ukrainian politicians focused on consolidating

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