United Nations: Russia has said it would like to see a woman as the next UN Secretary General and would back a candidate from Eastern Europe, as EU Budget Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, from Bulgaria, has emerged as the top candidate to replace Ban Ki-moon.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, whose country holds the Security Council presidency this month, said a formal vote to pick a successor to Ban could happen soon.
"We do believe that it is the turn of Eastern Europe to provide the next secretary general," Churkin told a news conference, adding: "We would very much like to see a woman."
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Irina Bokova, Bulgarian candidate and UNESCO Director General, still remains in the race in a private capacity.
There are now three women from Eastern Europe in the race - Bokova, Georgieva and Moldova's Natalia Gherman, EurActiv news platform reported.
Georgieva appeared before the UN General Assembly on Monday, fielding questions for over two hours on topics ranging from the war in Syria to the refugee crisis and climate change.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov has said his country does not reject any Secretary General candidate outright and will bar none from running in the race.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has already met both Georgieva and Bokova, TASS quoted Gatilov as saying.
"We have had contacts with all candidates in the list, they have all come to Moscow," he added.
His statement comes amid uncertainty over whether Russia would veto the front-runner, former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres (who has been first in all straw polls held by the Security Council so far) or Georgieva, the EU Commissioner whom Bulgaria nominated as a late entry, replacing UNESCO head Bokova. Bokova has been seen as a possible choice of Russia, reported Sofia News Agency novinite.com.
Georgieva, 63, entered the race to be the next UN secretary-general last week, and is now facing off against nine other candidates who have been campaigning for months.
The contest for UN chief heads into new territory on Wednesday, when the five permanent council members - Britain, France, China, Russia and the US - are set to vote using coloured ballots to indicate whether the candidates would face a veto when the council moves to a formal vote.
Five straw polls so far have been held with white ballots.
The front runner to succeed Ban Ki-moon is Guterres, who took the No.1 spot in all five straw polls held by the Security Council.
The Bulgarian government withdrew its support for Bokova after she failed to make a strong showing in the polls.