Playing politics

Aware of the electoral sensitivities, she assured the Ukrainian public that she stood with them, and took "every responsibility for the government's handling of swine flu on herself."

"The world has given us not one, but two great trials - first, the financial crisis and now this horrible flu." Ukraine's leading political analysts say the handling of swine flu has become one of the key electoral issues. According to them, rival candidates are seeking to take the initiative in battling the spread of the virus.

"The swine flu outbreak has overshadowed all the other negative campaigning we were seeing, especially around Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko," says Vitaly Kulyk, a political scientist at Kiev's Centre for Civil Society. "The main players are using the flu in their propaganda war," he adds.

Appeals for help

Opposition leader Viktor Yanukovych, whose party is backed by Ukraine's most powerful oligarch, has called on Ukrainians to donate to a special fund which was set up by his party. He said he wanted to hold a TV marathon to raise funds to fight the epidemic. The first aircraft to arrive in Ukraine from Switzerland carrying emergency medical supplies, was met by the country's leadership. They demonstrated how to put face masks on in front of cameras. Many Ukrainians however, are asking why their government did not act sooner. It was evident in May or June that swine flu was spreading around the world, they say, yet Ukraine failed to stockpile sufficient supplies of medication. Only now, when Ukraine faces an epidemic of swine flu, has the government started to act.

Fear spreading faster than swine flu in Ukraine

Philip P. Pan, Washington Post