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Mykola Azarov: Yanukovych's Right-Hand Man

Azarov (pictured) headed President Yanukovych's election campaign.
Azarov (pictured) headed President Yanukovych's election campaign.
By Serhiy Rudenko
Ukraine's new prime minister, Mykola Azarov, gets angry when reminded he's a geologist by training. He prefers to think of himself as a political animal.

For the last 15 years, Azarov has been a constant in Ukraine's political life. And for the last eight, he's been the right hand of the country's new president, Viktor Yanukovych.

Geology isn't the only thing in Azarov's past he prefers to forget. Born on December 17, 1947, in the Russian city of Kaluga, Azarov's original surname was Pakhlo. But when he married his wife, Ludmyla Azarova, he took her name.

Geology To Politics

He was educated at the prestigious Moscow State University. After completing his geology studies, he worked as an engineer in a coal plant in Tula, before moving on to a research institute not far from Moscow. In 1984 at the age of 37, Azarov moved to Donetsk to take up a position of deputy director of the Ukrainian State Geological Institute, a research and development body that he went on to head.

He became a member of the Ukrainian parliament in 1994, and led the parliamentary Budget Committee. Two years later, he became the director of the Ukrainian state tax authority, which he built up to be the government's key financial weapon.


Azarov was the first chairman of the pro-Moscow Party of Regions, long before it assumed its current name. In 2002, the European Choice parliamentary group nominated him for the prime minister's post, but he declined, standing aside for Yanukovych, who assumed both the leadership of the party and the prime minister's job.

Yanukovych rewarded Azarov for his loyalty by twice appointing him first deputy prime minister and finance minister, simultaneously. From there, he became the chief ideologue of Yanukovych's economic policies.

Ahead of this year's hotly contested presidential election, Azarov headed Yanukovych's election campaign. After Yanukovych assumed the presidency, Azarov took over the leadership of the Party of Regions.

Some years ago, he was asked if he had any presidential ambitions. Azarov said no, but added that when Ukraine was ready to elect a non-ethnic Ukrainian to the post, he might think about it. But an obstacle to an Azarov presidency is the fact that he speaks almost no Ukrainian, something that he has been chided for in public. (On the eve of becoming prime minister, however, Azarov promised that from now on he and members of his government would speak only Ukrainian.)

Strong Leadership


His authoritarian style of leadership (at the tax authority he boasted that he would fire up to 30 people in every meeting) got him into trouble during the first Yanukovych government (2002-05).

Valeriy Khoroshkovsky, then minister of the economy and European integration, and Inna Bohoslovska, the chairman of the state committee on regulatory policy and entrepreneurship, accused Azarov of abusing state funds, ignoring other viewpoints, and showing absolute disregard for Ukraine and the law.

But Azarov was steadfast during the scandal, which involved people handpicked by Kuchma, and declared that both Bohoslovska and Khoroshkovsky had been totally ineffective in their jobs (they both subsequently resigned).
The new cabinet of sharp elbows might mean Azarov has to listen to the views of others


Azarov also featured on the now infamous recordings made in Kuchma's office by his bodyguard, Mykola Melnychenko. Using foul language, the president and a number of ministers could be heard planning schemes against journalists and politicians, including voter fraud.

Specifically, Azarov is heard speaking about using his position as the head of the tax authority to pressure people to ensure Kuchma's reelection in 1999. Critics also said that the recordings implicated Azarov in other corrupt schemes, including allegedly covering up graft at the state gas company Naftogaz and aiding the demise of the Slaviansk Bank, which was connected to Yulia Tymoshenko's gas company.

Azarov has vehemently refuted all these allegations. In 2002, he accused Slavyansk Bank president Borys Feldman of being behind the Melnychenko recordings.

The new cabinet of sharp elbows might mean Azarov has to listen to the views of others. It is unlikely that his deputies will simply do his bidding.

And given that the Economy Ministry is now headed by Vasyl Tsushko, a man with a fair amount of scandal in his past, and the Finance Ministry is in the hands of Fedir Yaroshenko, a former Azarov underling, it is likely that Azarov will have a huge influence on economic policy.

But with Azarov's conservative reputation, he'll have his work cut out in stabilizing Ukraine's struggling economy.
 
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Darian from: Arlington, Virginia, USA
March 12, 2010 20:05
It didn't take long for Yanukovych to show his hand. He appoints a heavy-handed Russian thug -- the equivalent of Governor Blagoyevich at best -- as Prime Minister of Ukraine. Well, you can tell a man's character by the company he keeps. Frightening.
In Response

by: Slawko from: Toronto
March 13, 2010 02:36
This guy readily admits he doesn't speak the official language of the country he is running! What a joke! What were Ukrainians thinking when they voted for this party of thugs and criminals? You think they are going to clean up corruption? Not likely. They will listen like good puppets to what ever the Kremlin wants them to do. What do Ukrainians want? To have a prosperous country like Europe or a country like Russia with most poor, a few uber rich and organized crime running the country? I'm afraid your in for 5 years of serious back tracking from any real European integration.
In Response

by: Victor from: USA
March 14, 2010 00:05
The truth is: 60% of Ukraine is made up of ethnic Ukrainians and 40% is of Russians. The most industrialized part is the East, where Russians are a majority.
In Response

by: rick from: italy
March 15, 2010 02:47
Yes , but omong that 60 % of ukrainians
(for me i not 60 % , any way ...)
only half speak ukrainian , this is the truth !

But nobody want admit this .

by: steve from: toronto
March 14, 2010 01:37
real European integration! what kind if intergration you are talking about? Ukrainians stil have to pay the gas bill, and why its not integradet yet? May be Europe did not want the Orenges.Now Europe is showing interest.Why?
Somthing to do with the type of people who govern. What do you think?
In Response

by: Slawko from: Toronto
March 15, 2010 13:13
Europe was very much interested in the Orange's at 1st but the lack of a majority in parliament, thus no ability to bring in legal and economic reforms needed to integrate more with Europe, were impossible. Europe has a set benchmark for E.U admittance which every new member needs to meet and Ukraine was far from this goal.

As someone from Western Ukraine more than 90% of the population there speaks Ukrainian. We had to self teach the language to ourselves and our children because the Soviet government did not allow us to formally educate ourselves in Ukrainian. Yes the East is much more Russified but don't kid yourselves how many people from Kiev to Lviv speak Ukrainian.

With the Ukrainian language now being taught in more oblasts than ever (even the Donbass) the language is making a come back. The Orange's definately made a lot of mistakes but promoting and protecting the Ukrainian language was not one of them.

But if the Regions are truly serious about governing for everyone, not just the east - they must embrace the Ukrainian language. They may never be proficient but to see these politicians try to speak Ukrainian only bridges the gap between the east and the west.

by: elmer
March 14, 2010 14:18
Ukraine is now a mafiocracy. What were people thinking when they voted for Banditkovych? Well, the 48% that voted for Banditkovych weren't thinking. What they saw was a bandit - "but he's OUR bandit." The foxes are now guarding the henhouse, complete with little slogans about "democracy" and "reform" courtesy of Paul Manafort and the spin doctors from the US.

What's even worse is that Ukraine's "political elite" is a closed circle - by design. Whether it's Tymoshenko and her oligarchs, or Yushchenko and his oligarchs, or Banditkovych and his oligarchs - it's all a bunch of pig oligarchs feeding at the government trough, and they won't let go, and the people haven't quite figured out what to do about it.

The choice in the Presidential election was between cholera and typhus. They got typhus. The typhus, in consolidating power, brought in the plague.

Ukraine's oligarchy is keeping people down - and they don't care. The roads are crap, ordinary people have nowhere to turn to for their rights,, the economy is in the dumpster - but, according to Forbes Magazine, 4 of Ukraine's oligarchs got even wealthier. Forbes doesn't cover it, but it's all courtesy of a corrupt government system/oligarchy.

And the truth is that only 19% of Ukraine are ethnic Russians. But they live in Ukraine, not Russia. The most industrialized part is Eastern Ukraine, where the Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk mafia thug Party of Regions is centered. And where all of Ukranie's problems come from, including coal mines blowing up and people dying in substandard coal mines, so that a few oligarchs can remain wealthy. Akhmetov, Kolesnikov, Kluyev, Azarov - all Donetsk/Eastern Ukraine mafia.

In Response

by: Anonymous
March 25, 2010 11:16
Elmer, bang on! Very much on the nail. Congrats from a Ukrainian national.

by: ewa from: vienna
March 24, 2010 12:00
"Reforms do not fall into women's competence", he says, so there is not one female minister in his government:

Source:
http://www.interfax.com.ua/eng/main/34554/
http://www.kmu.gov.ua/control/uk/publish/officialcategory?cat_id=31418

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