Poroshenko
© Serhil Nuzhnenko/RadioSvoboda.org/RFE/RL
Ukranian President Petro Poroshenko takes selfies, Olimpiyskiy Stadium, Kyiv, April 14, 2019.
There is one presidential candidate Ukrainians have become accustomed to watching sing and dance on stage. It is not incumbent President Petro Poroshenko. And yet there the 53-year-old was, gyrating and pumping his fist beside yellow-overall-clad rockers at a campaign rally at Kyiv's Olimpiyskiy Stadium on April 14.

Fighting for his political survival -- one week before the election.

Then, in another act his aides said was unscripted, Poroshenko led a gushing crowd of a few thousand people inside the 70,000-seat stadium for nearly an hour, rousing them with patriotic chants and posing for selfies with supporters.

Hours earlier, at a press conference that was supposed to be a debate with comedian and presidential front-runner Volodymyr Zelenskiy, Poroshenko made his case for a second term and pleaded for another chance to deliver on promises that many Ukrainians say have been unfulfilled during a presidency that has seen his popularity plummet.

Zelenskiy refused to attend Poroshenko's debate, demanding the two go head-to-head at the stadium on April 19 instead.

Standing beside an empty lectern bearing his opponent's name, the incumbent president -- who campaigned in the first round on a platform that hailed such achievements as steering Ukraine on a westward path, securing an independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine, and halting Russian aggression that has cleaved large swathes of his country's territory and caused the deaths of 13,000 people -- apologized for mistakes made during his five-year rule and promised to do better in a second term.