Sunday, December 21, 2014


Ukraine

Snapshot: Who Is Petro Poroshenko?

Petro Poroshenko speaks at an election meeting in Lviv on May 22.
Petro Poroshenko speaks at an election meeting in Lviv on May 22.

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Eight Things You Didn't Know About The Ukrainian Election

It's all but certain that "chocolate king" Petro Poroshenko is going to win more votes than "gas princess" Yulia Tymoshenko in Ukraine's May 25 first-round elections. But there are still a few new things to learn about the vote.
By Robert Coalson
Petro Poroshenko, whose fortune is estimated at some $1.3 billion, is one of the richest men in Ukraine and best known as the owner of the popular Roshen brand of chocolates. But the 48-year-old future president is also a savvy and experienced politician, who has held ministerial posts in several of Ukraine's governments in the past 15 years.

In 2000, Poroshenko was a founding member of the Party of Regions, the political machine that brought ousted President Viktor Yanukovych to power. A year later, however, Poroshenko broke ranks with President Leonid Kuchma and became a leading supporter and financial backer of Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party.

He backed the Orange Revolution in 2004-05 and served in Yushchenko's government. In 2009-10, he was foreign minister.
 
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Poroshenko was named trade and economic-development minister under President Yanukovych in 2012. He held the post for eight months before returning to parliament as an independent deputy from the central city of Vinnytsya. Although he is believed to have financially supported the Euromaidan protests, he did not play a leading role in the demonstrations.

Perhaps the high point of Poroshenko's performance in the latest political crisis came on March 12.

That night, Poroshenko visited the Crimean capital, Simferopol, in a quixotic bid to prevent the peninsula from holding a referendum on joining Russia. Widely seen amateur video showed the stoic Poroshenko walking through the dark streets of the city being hounded by hundreds of chanting, pro-Russian demonstrators:

That night in Simferopol may have elevated Poroshenko to the front ranks in the eyes of many Ukrainians, according to Andreas Umland, associate professor of political science at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, "Him being chased by these pro-Russia militiamen or Russian soldiers -- that, perhaps, played a role in making him look credible and a serious politician and not just an oligarch."

Poroshenko has been a consistent supporter of Ukraine's integration with the European Union, and he gained public sympathy when Russia embargoed his Roshen chocolates in a trade war targeted against him. When he was foreign minister, Poroshenko advocated Ukraine's NATO membership, although he did not make that position part of his presidential campaign.
    
RFE/RL Russian Service correspondent Vladimir Ivakhnenko contributed to this report. This piece was excerpted from a previously published piece titled "Petro Poroshenko: Ukraine's Shadowy Man Of The Hour"

Robert Coalson

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