KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, one of her country's most polarizing political figures, announced Thursday that she will run for presidential elections set for May 25.
Tymoshenko, who was released from jail last month following the overthrow of her political rival, President Viktor Yanukovych, said she would stand to protect the unity of Ukraine.
Presidential elections are taking place against the backdrop of dismal economic conditions, Russia's annexation of Crimea and rumblings of discontent in the country's mainly Russian-speaking eastern provinces.
"I will be the candidate of Ukrainian unity," Tymoshenko said. "The west and center of Ukraine has always voted for me, but I was born in the east, in Dnipropetrovsk."
This will be her second attempt to secure the presidency. She narrowly lost to Yanukovych in 2010.
Her renewed ascent to the forefront of public life marks the return of the most divisive figures in Ukraine's political scene. She is variously admired as an icon of democracy and detested as a self-promoting manipulator with a shady past.
With her blond braids and telegenic smile, Tymoshenko came to international prominence in the 2004-05 Orange Revolution, which culminated with the overturning of a widely criticized election that had given Yanukovych victory.
A re-run of the election handed the presidency to her political ally Viktor Yushchenko, under whom she served as prime minister. Amid broad disappointment at that government's performance, Yanukovych was again elected in 2010.
Tymoshenko said that she would not squander voters' trust this time around.
"I will do everything to ensure that our second European revolution does not lead to distrust, depression and disappointment," she said. "I will everyday work to earn the trust that is afforded to me by the people."
Tymoshenko is the best known of an array of new candidates in a race left wide open by Ukraine's political upheaval, ranging from former heavyweight boxer Vitaliy Klitschko to politicians who have their political base in eastern provinces.