Profile: Viktor Yanukovich
A look at the life and career of Ukraine’s ousted president.
After being labelled a Kremlin stooge when he initially won an allegedly rigged election in 2004, huge protests that became known as the Orange Revolution forced Viktor Yanokovich from office.
After this he worked on re-building his political career and served a second term as prime minister from 2006-2007.
Born on July 9, 1950 to a working class family in the Donetsk coal-mining region, Yanukovich 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.
Yanukovich became prominent in national politics in 2002 when the-then president Leonid Kuchma named him as prime minister.
Yanukovich 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 had an alliance with the Kremlin’s United Russia party, Yanukovich was initially careful to avoid appearing too close to Russia.
He said he favoured a strong, independent, neutral Ukraine.
“I have done everything to stop this madness for the past five years,” Yanukovich said in a 2010 television interview.
“The aim of the so-called Orange Revolution… was to weaken Russia but not to strengthen our state.”
Yanukovich dismissed Ukraine’s membership of the NATO military alliance, but also called for Ukraine to improve relations with the European Union.
The 59-year-old campaigned under the slogan “There is a leader, there is a state,” and 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 promised to correct what he termed the mistakes of the past five years, which had seen repeated rows with Russia over energy supplies and a deep economic crisis.
He received support from the party of Vladimir Putin, now the Russian president, and was elected president in 2010, defeating Tymoshenko.
In November 2011, Yanukovich announced he was abandoning a trade deal with the EU, leading to concerns he would soon be seeking closer ties with Russia.
The move lead to mass protests, the second of his political career, and pro-EU groups gathered en masse in Kiev’s Independence Square while some protesters swiftly occupied Kiev’s City Hall.
As the protests gathered steam, they turned deadly and Ukraine’s politicians voted in February 2014 to remove Yanukovych from power in a bid to calm the situation.
The ousted president then disappeared from the international scene, only to arrive in Russia where he was given safe haven.
During a speech made to journalists, he maintained he was Ukraine’s rightful president and refused to acknowledge the interim government in Kiev, describing his removal as a coup.