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Ukraine candidate urges public to propose future Cabinet

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FILE In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during his interview with The Associated Press, in Kiev, Ukraine. A comedian who is leading Ukraine's presidential election race has urged his supporters to propose candidates for top government jobs. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays the nation's president in a popular TV series, called on his backers to suggest candidates for prime minister, foreign and defense ministers and other top officials. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, FIle)

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — A comedian who is leading Ukraine's presidential election race on Monday urged his supporters to propose candidates for top government jobs.

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays the nation's president in a popular TV series, called on his backers to suggest candidates for prime minister, foreign and defense ministers and other top officials. Zelenskiy said in a video message Monday that Ukrainians have grown sick of presidents naming their friends to key positions.

He challenged the public to name candidates for top government jobs on his campaign's website and its Facebook page.

"Let's do it together," Zelenskiy said.

Opinion polls have shown Zelenskiy ahead of incumbent President Petro Poroshenko and ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in the run-up to the March 31 vote.

Zelenskiy's popularity has been driven both by his TV star status and by public dismay with current leaders. Ukraine has seen economic troubles and a sharp drop in living standards after Russia's 2014 annexation of Crimea and Russia's support for a separatist insurgency in eastern Ukraine.

The most recent poll completed last week had 26.4 percent backing Zelenskiy, while Poroshenko was supported by 18 percent and Tymoshenko was backed by 13.8 percent. Most others in the crowded field of 44 candidates are trailing far behind.

The poll of 2,042 people was conducted by Kiev International Institute of Sociology and had a margin of error of 2.8 percentage points.

FILE In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy is interviewed by The Associated Press, in Kiev, Ukraine. A comedian who is leading Ukraine's presidential election race has urged his supporters to propose candidates for top government jobs. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays the nation's president in a popular TV series, called on his backers to suggest candidates for prime minister, foreign and defense ministers and other top officials. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy is interviewed by The Associated Press, in Kiev, Ukraine. A comedian who is leading Ukraine's presidential election race has urged his supporters to propose candidates for top government jobs. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays the nation's president in a popular TV series, called on his backers to suggest candidates for prime minister, foreign and defense ministers and other top officials. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy is interviewed by The Associated Press, in Kiev, Ukraine. A comedian who is leading Ukraine's presidential election race has urged his supporters to propose candidates for top government jobs. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays the nation's president in a popular TV series, called on his backers to suggest candidates for prime minister, foreign and defense ministers and other top officials. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, File)
FILE In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during his interview with The Associated Press, in Kiev, Ukraine. A comedian who is leading Ukraine's presidential election race has urged his supporters to propose candidates for top government jobs. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays the nation's president in a popular TV series, called on his backers to suggest candidates for prime minister, foreign and defense ministers and other top officials. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, FIle)
FILE In this file photo taken on Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2019, Ukrainian comedian and presidential candidate Volodymyr Zelenskiy speaks during his interview with The Associated Press, in Kiev, Ukraine. A comedian who is leading Ukraine's presidential election race has urged his supporters to propose candidates for top government jobs. Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who plays the nation's president in a popular TV series, called on his backers to suggest candidates for prime minister, foreign and defense ministers and other top officials. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky, FIle)