UPDATE 1-Tymoshenko woos coy Tigipko before Ukraine run-off

* Tymoshenko presses Tigipko to be PM in her presidency

* Tigipko hedges bets, sidesteps declaration of support

* Says he will serve either Tymoshenko or Yanukovich as PM

(Rewrites with Tigipko reaction)

By Richard Balmforth

KIEV, Jan 26 (BestGrowthStock) – Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko pressed
businessman Sergey Tigipko to accept the prime minister’s job if
she is elected president next month, but he stopped short of
giving her the backing she hopes would help her to victory.

Tymoshenko, who is prime minister, and opposition leader
Viktor Yanukovich are both wooing Tigipko, who came a strong
third with 13 percent of the vote in a first round on Jan. 17.

But she is keen for him to agree to work with her before the
Feb. 7 run-off as this would help lure voters who backed
Tigipko, a 49-year old former central banker, in the first
round.

“I am hoping he will give a clear answer so that people can
decide on voting day in the second round of the elections,”
Tymoshenko told journalists.

Tymoshenko came in 10 percentage points behind Yanukovich in
the first round.

She is expected to pick up many floating votes from other
eliminated candidates, particularly in the Ukrainian-speaking
west and centre. But she wants to win the support of voters in
the Russian-speaking industrial east who backed Tigipko.

Analysts see a close contest between Yanukovich, 59, who
lost the presidency in 2004 to President Viktor Yushchenko when
his rigged election was overturned, and Tymoshenko who is a
strong public performer.

One of Europe’s largest online bookmakers, bwin, was taking
bets on the election, giving Yanukovich odds of 1.33-1 and
Tymoshenko 3-1, according to its Web site. The publication of
opinion polls is banned in Ukraine two weeks before a vote.

UNPOPULAR MEASURES

Tigipko has refused to back either candidate before the
vote. On Tuesday, he said he was prepared to serve as prime
minister under either candidate, but only if his conditions for
taking “unpopular measures” to revive the economy were brought
out in the open.

“Simply being handed a job does not interest me,” he said in
a statement. “I will not sign up to any back-room deals.”

In an interview with Reuters on Monday he spoke of the need
for painful reforms to modernise the economy and a tough budget
to bring back International Monetary Fund support.

The IMF suspended its $16.4 billion bail-out programme to
the ex-Soviet republic last year after parliament raised the
minimum wage in violation of promises to control the budget.

Yushchenko has refused to back Tymoshenko’s policy programme
and Tigipko appears keen to avoid suffering the same fate in a
new government.

Tymoshenko stressed on Tuesday that her election programme
was similar to that of Tigipko, especially in the area of the
economy — both speak of modernisation and a stronger social
safety net. But Yanukovich also claims his plan of action is
identical.

Stock Investing
(Additional reporting by Yuri Kulikov and Sabina Zawadzki)
(Reporting by Richard Balmforth; Editing by Noah Barkin)

UPDATE 1-Tymoshenko woos coy Tigipko before Ukraine run-off