A prominent candidate in Sunday's parliamentary election in Ukraine has been shot to death. The killing is casting a shadow over a crucial poll that may determine the future of reforms in the former Soviet Republic.
The candidate for a seat from western Ukraine was shot in the back late Friday by unknown assailants. Mykola Shkriblyak was deputy governor of the Ivano-Frankovsk region and a member of a center-left social democratic party.
Authorities say he was killed in his apartment building, and local officials say it was likely a politically motivated slaying.
Another candidate in the same region was killed in February, but police say the motive in that case was probably business-related.
Political violence in Ukraine in recent years has included the killing of a prominent journalist who criticized alleged corruption in the government of President Leonid Kuchma.
Sunday's elections are seen as crucial in a battle over Ukraine's future. The country has been slow to adopt economic reforms because of an entrenched bureaucracy and pro-Communist parties.
That may change, because a reformist bloc called "Our Ukraine" appears to be leading against the communists and candidates loyal to President Kuchma.
The leader of "Our Ukraine" is Viktor Yushchenko, a former prime minister who promises to speed up the reform process.
In a speech on Friday, Mr. Yushchenko predicted his group would form a majority in parliament after the elections. He said his aim is to create a market-oriented economy and to reduce poverty.
Mr. Yushchenko already has a track record in this regard. As prime minister for more than a year he helped pull the country out of a decade-long recession and avoid a default on foreign debts.
But he was ousted a year ago in what was seen as a setback for the country as it struggles to deal with its Soviet past.