|Viktor Yanukovich has made a comeback since winning an allegedly rigged election in 2004 [EPA]
Viktor Yanukovych, a former prime minister, has made a comeback in Ukrainian politics after being labelled a Kremlin stooge when he initially won an allegedly rigged election in 2004.
Born on July 9, 1950 to a working class family in the Donetsk coal-mining region, Yanukovych is a native Russian speaker and a mechanical engineer by training.
He had a turbulent youth, including two spells in prison for violent offences, which were erased from his record in 1978.
He began his working life as a transport executive in the coal-mining industry, reaching senior managerial posts. He became governor of Donetsk Region in 1997.
Yanukovych became prominent in national politics in 2002 when the-then president Leonid Kuchma named him as prime minister.
Yanukovych was cast as the political villain in 2004, after he was congratulated prematurely by Russia in an election international observers said was rigged.
He made a comeback in 2006 when Viktor Yushchenko, the-then president, appointed him prime minister after "Orange" parties failed to form a coalition.
But he left office after those parties beat his Regions Party and its allies in a snap 2007 election.
Although his Party of the Regions has an alliance with the Kremlin's United Russia party, Yanukovych has been careful since 2004 to avoid appearing too close to Russia.
He says he favours a strong, independent, neutral Ukraine.
"I have done everything to stop this madness for the past five years," Yanukovych said in a recent television interview.
"The aim of the so-called Orange Revolution... was to weaken Russia but not to strengthen our state."
Fight against poverty
Yanukovych has dismissed Ukraine's membership of the Nato military alliance, but has also called for Ukraine to improve relations with the European Union.
The 59-year-old has campaigned under the slogan "There is a leader, there is a state," and has struck a chord with voters by berating Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, his rival, for ignoring the people.
"I think we should unite to fight against crisis and poverty," he said in early 2010. "The utter poverty of millions of Ukrainians is the real enemy of Ukraine."
He has promised to correct what he terms the mistakes of the past five years, which have seen repeated rows with Russia over energy supplies and a deep economic crisis.
The turnaround in fortunes for Yanukovych has been helped by political deadlock in Kiev which has frustrated the EU and Russia.
His campaign has also been helped by US political consultant Paul Manafort, whose business partner helped manage John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign.
He has received support from the party of Vladimir Putin, the Russian prime minister, attending a party congress in St Petersburg last year.