Who is Viktor Yanukovych?

As Russia continues its advance in Ukraine, reports have surfaced that the administration in Moscow backs former Ukrainian president-in-exile Viktor Yanukovych as the man who will take charge of the nation if the current regime falls.

Having the rare distinction of being ousted from the presidency twice, reports have emerged that Russia wants to install Yanukovych as Ukraine’s next president. The Kyiv Independent tweeted, citing a report by Ukrayinska Pravda, an online newspaper, that the former president was groomed by the Kremlin for a special occasion.

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The rise to power of Viktor Yanukovych

Born into the family of a steelworker and a nurse in Yenakiyevo in July 1950, he was imprisoned twice for violent crimes in his youth. However, according to his official biography, the charges were eventually dropped.

He started his career as a senior transport manager in the Soviet Union’s main coal industry in eastern Ukraine, then became a doctor of economics in 2000. He later became governor of the Donetsk region , where more than three million people live. and Ukraine’s economic powerhouse, less than a year after entering local government. Then-president Leonid Kuchma appointed him prime minister in November 2002.

In 2004, he took the plunge and won the presidential elections. However, following massive protests in Kyiv known as the Orange Revolution, the election was declared fraudulent. He served a second term as prime minister from 2006 to 2007 and became Ukraine’s most popular politician.

He then won the 2010 presidential elections, beating his rival Yulia Tymoshenko. During his presidency, Yanukovych steered Ukraine towards a closer relationship with the EU.

However, days before signing, he rejected an association agreement in November 2013. Street protests, the largest since the 2004 Orange Revolution, erupted and continued for months, reaching a bloody climax between February 18 and 22. the death of at least 88 people, many of them protesters shot by uniformed snipers in 48 hours of bloodshed, which ultimately brought him down.

Under pressure from the EU, he signed an agreement to transfer powers to parliament and hold early elections. But within hours he had fled the capital and his administration had collapsed.

Yanukovych’s ties to Russia

In 2004, Yanukovych was openly supported by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Although he tried hard to shed the image of being “the man of Moscow”, but, with Ukraine’s finances in a perilous state, he argued that free trade relations with the EU would jeopardize his country’s existing trade with Russia.

Billionaire oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, owner of Shakhtar Donetsk football club, was a political ally of Yanukovych. The former president’s ties to Moscow became even more apparent after he resigned and fled the country to Russia to seek asylum.

At his first press conference after leaving Ukraine, given in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, he spoke out against any military intervention or future division of his country. He clarified that he had fled Kiev for fear of life and that he would not return without guarantees of safety for him and his family.

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