Ahead of Sunday’s hotly contested presidential election, Ukraine is observing a so-called “day of silence” in which campaigning is forbidden.

The campaign hit a dramatic high on Friday night when the comic actor who is far ahead in public opinion polls debated with President Petro Poroshenko in the country’s largest sports stadium.

Poroshenko denounced Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who has never held political office, saying he would be too weak and inexperienced to stand up to Russia’s attempts to bring Ukraine back within its orbit. Zelenskiy in turn criticized Poroshenko for failing to rein in corruption during his five years in office.

Ukrainian presidential candidate and popular comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy makes the victory sign during the debate with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian presidential candidate and popular comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy makes the victory sign during the debate with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

In a melodramatic moment, both kneeled to ask forgiveness of those who have lost relatives in five years of fighting with Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko sings the national anthem after debates between two candidates in the weekend presidential run-off at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko sings the national anthem after debates between two candidates in the weekend presidential run-off at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko arrives to attend debates between two candidates in the weekend presidential run-off at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko arrives to attend debates between two candidates in the weekend presidential run-off at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
People hold Ukrainian national flag at the Olympic stadium prior debates between two candidates in the weekend presidential run-off in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
People hold Ukrainian national flag at the Olympic stadium prior debates between two candidates in the weekend presidential run-off in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, April 19, 2019. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

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