Yushchenko, Viktor Andriyovych

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Yushchenko, Viktor Andriyovych

Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko, 1954–, Ukrainian politician, president of Ukraine (2005–10), b. Khoruzhivka, Ukraine. A technocrat trained as an accountant and economist, he rose in Ukraine's banking system under Soviet rule, and after Ukrainian independence he became deputy chairman (1991–93) of the Ukrainian Agro-Industrial Bank. In 1993 he became head of the new Ukrainian central bank, where he oversaw the introduction of a national currency and the establishment of a post-Soviet banking and financial system. Late in 1999 he was appointed prime minister by President Leonid Kuchma. He served for 16 months, championing market reforms, but was dismissed by a parliament allied with the president and entrenched economic interests. In 2002 he formed the Our Ukraine opposition party, which won more than a fifth of the seats in parliament. Running as the main opposition candidate for president in 2004, he was poisoned during the bitter campaign by an unknown assailant using dioxin and nearly died. Yushchenko was initially declared the loser after a runoff with Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, but the vote was marred by fraud. The election sparked massive street demonstrations in Kiev, drew international condemnation, and threatened to divide Ukraine. The result was overturned by the Ukrainian supreme court, and in a new runoff Yushchenko secured a sizable majority. In 2006, however, after constitutional changes and after his coalition suffered losses at the polls, he was forced to accept a governing coalition headed by Prime Minister Yanukovych. After the prime minister maneuvered to reduce the president's powers (2007), Yushchenko moved to force new elections, succeeding in May of winning an agreement for fall elections after weeks of political machinations by both sides. The elections removed Yanukovych from office, but Yushchenko's relations with Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, his former ally, were difficult. Although Yushchenko has overseen a revival of Ukrainian language and culture, he also has alienated Ukraine's ethnic Russians and failed to achieve any real economic growth. In the 2010 presidential election he won only some 5% of the vote.

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