VIKTOR YUSHCHENKO Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko (born 23 February 1954) is a Ukrainian politician, former Prime Minister of Ukraine, leader of the Our Ukraine (Nasha Ukrayina) political coalition, and the main opposition candidate in the October-November 2004 Ukrainian presidential election.




Yushchenko was born in the village of Khoruzhivka in Sums’ka oblast’, into the family of a teacher. He studied economics in Ternopil’ and afterwards worked as a rural accountant in Ivano-Frankivs’ka oblast’. In 1976, he was hired in Sums’ka oblast’s branch of the USSR State Bank. He was later promoted to the post of deputy chairman of the Ukraine Agro-Industrial Bank in Kiev.


In 1993, he started working in the newly-formed National Bank of Ukraine and became its Head in 1997. As such, he played an important part in the creation of Ukraine’s national currency, the hryvnia, and the establishment of a modern regulating system for commercial banking. He also successfully overcame a debilitating wave of hyper-inflation that hit the country and managed to defend the value of the currency following the 1998 financial crisis in Russia.


In December 1999, Yushchenko was nominated as Prime Minister by President Leonid Kuchma and was ratified in this post by an overwhelming majority of 296-12 in parliament. Significant economic progress was made during Yushchenko’s cabinet service, though critics argue that this was made possible by the general situation of the economy, and was not the result of his actions. Soon, his government (particularly, deputy prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko) became embroiled in a confrontation with influential coal-mining and natural gas industry leaders.


The conflict resulted in a 2001 no-confidence vote by the parliament, which was mainly the work of Communists, who had opposed Yushchenko’s economic policies, and centerist groups associated with the country’s powerful “oligarchs". The vote was carried by 263 to 69 and resulted in Yushchenko’s removal from office. The fall of his government was viewed with dismay by many Ukrainians; four million votes were gathered in support of a petition supporting him and opposing the parliamentary vote and a 10,000-strong demonstration was held in Kiev.


In 2002, Yushchenko became the leader of the Our Ukraine (Nasha Ukrayina) political coalition, which received a plurality of seats in the parliamentary election that year. However, the number of seats won wasn’t enough for a majority, and the efforts to form it together with other opposition parties failed. Since then, Yushchenko has remained the leader and public face of the Our Ukraine group (Ukrainian: fraktsiya “Nasha Ukrayina"). He is widely regarded as the leader of anti-president opposition in the government, since other opposition parties are less influential and have fewer seats in the parliament.


Yushchenko is married to Kateryna Yushchenko-Chumachenko (his second wife). She is a Ukrainian-American born in Chicago and a former official with the U.S. State Department, where she worked as a special assistant to the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs. Opponents of Yushchenko have criticized her for remaining a U.S. citizen. During the recent election campaign, Kateryna was accused of exerting the influence of the U.S. government on her husband’s decisions, as an employee of the U.S. government or even a CIA agent. She had earlier been accused by Russian television journalist Mikhail Leontyev of leading a U.S. project to help Yushchenko seize power in Ukraine; in January 2002, she won a libel case against him. Ukraine’s pro-government Inter television channel repeated Leontyev’s allegations in 2001 but in January 2003 she won a libel case against the channel as well.


The Yushchenkos have five children: three daughters and two sons.


Yushchenko’s main hobbies are Ukrainian traditional culture (including folk ceramics and archeology) and mountaineering.


Political portrait and 2004 presidential election


Since the end of his term as prime minister, Yushchenko has become a charismatic political figure and he is popular among Ukrainians in the western and central regions of the country. As of 2001-2004, his rankings in popularity polls were higher than those of the current president, Leonid Kuchma.[4]


As a politician, Viktor Yushchenko is widely perceived as a mixture of West-oriented and moderate Ukrainian nationalist. He is also an advocate of massive privatization of the economy. His opponents (and allies) sometimes criticize him for indecision and failure to reveal his position, while advocates argue that these are the signs of Yushchenko’s commitment to teamwork, consensus, and negotiation. He is also often accused of being unable to form a united and strong team that is free of inner quarrels. One of his powerful backers is Yulia Timoshenko, who served time in jail for fraud charges related to privatization of gas.


In 2004, as President Kuchma’s term came to an end, Yushchenko announced that he was an independent candidate for president. His major rival was Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. Since his term as prime minister, Yushchenko has slightly modernized his political platform, adding social partnership and other liberal slogans to older ideas of European integration, including Ukraine joining NATO, and fighting corruption. Supporters of Yushchenko are organized in the “Syla Narodu” ("Power of the People") electoral coalition, which is led by himself and his political ally Yuliya Tymoshenko, with the Our Ukraine coalition being the main constituent force.


Yushchenko’s campaign was built on face-to-face communication with the voters, since the government prevented most major TV channels from providing equal coverage to the candidates. Meanwhile, his rival, Yanukovych, frequently appeared in the news.


The campaign was often bitter, controversial, and violent, with accusations of “dirty tricks” from both sides. Yushchenko became seriously ill after dining with the head of the Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti, the Russian successor to the Soviet state security service known as the KGB (Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti) in early September 2004, and he was flown to Vienna’s Rodolfinerhaus clinic for treatment. He was diagnosed with “acute pancreatitis, accompanied by interstitial edematous changes", said to be due to “a serious viral infection and chemical substances which are not normally found in food products". In other words, poisoning, which Yushchenko has claimed was the work of agents of the government. However, this accusation has yet to be proven. After the illness, his face became heavily disfigured, bloated, and pockmarked.


According to British toxicologist John Henry, of St. Mary’s Hospital in London, the marks on Yushchenko’s face are chloracne, a characteristic symptom of dioxin poisoning. This claim is disputed by other scientists, who have suggested that it might be the result of rosacea, but this theory cannot explain the severe internal medical problems Yushchenko suffers from. The Yanukovych campaign have claimed that the “poisoning” was caused by eating bad sushi. On 8 December 2004, Dr Nikolai Korpan, who treated Yushchenko in Vienna at the, announced his finding that Yushchenko had been “deliberately” poisoned, and that the specific poison will be identified within days.


The initial vote, held on 31 October 2004, saw Yushchenko obtaining 39.87% in front of Yanukovich with 39.32%. As no candidate reached the 50% margin required for outright victory, a second round of run-off voting was held on 21 November 2004. Although a 75% voter turnout was recorded, observers reported many irregularities and abuses across the country. Judging by the exit poll results, he won voting in western and central provinces of the country.


The alleged electoral fraud, combined with the fact that the exit polls recorded a result (an 11% margin of victory for Yushchenko in one poll) so radically different from the final vote tally (a 3% margin of victory for Yanukovych), has caused Yushchenko and his supporters to refuse to recognize the results. Thus far, they have organized rallies across the nation, including a large, continuous demonstration in Kiev’s Independence Square, and have implemented a large-scale general strike amongst their supporters. Several municipal governments, including those of Kiev and Lviv, Yushchenko’s stronghold, have announced that they will not recognize the authority of a Yanukovych presidency and a massive protest occurred on 23 November 2004 in front of the headquarters of the Verkhovna Rada.


During the rally, tens of thousands of Yushchenko’s supporters filled the streets outside the building, holding orange flags, the color of Yushchenko’s coalition, and chanting his name. Inside the Verkhovna Rada, the opposition leader took a symbolic oath of office in front of legislative supporters shouting, “Bravo, Yushchenko!”


Shortly thereafter, one of Yushchenko’s deputies announced that half of the estimated 200,000 people protesting in Independence Square were asked to march on the building housing the president’s administration, where they were to lay what he called a “peaceful siege". As thousands of his supporters filled the streets around the building, Yushchenko and a group of his closest aides left the Verkhovna Rada and marched there. Reports indicated that they had entered the building and had begun negotiations with President Kuchma, which were expected to last well into 24 November 2004.


Instead, the talks were cancelled either late at night on 23 November 2004 or early in the morning on 24 November 2004. While it is not clear who cancelled the negotiations, it is clear that Yushchenko has not conceded defeat. That morning, he made a speech in Independence Square in which he called for his supporters across the nation to engage in strikes and sit-ins with the intention of paralyzing the government and forcing Kuchma and Yanukovych to concede defeat. He labelled this move the “Orange Revolution” and announced that a detailed plan for these events would be released by his campaign on 25 November 2004.


Ukraine’s parliament passed a resolution on 27 November 2004 that the presidential run-off vote was invalid and failed to reflect the will of voters. It also passed a resolution of no confidence in the Central Elections Commission based on allegations of irregularities, and finally a vote of no confidence in the government itself. Although the votes were not binding, they may lead to new elections.