Profile: Petro Poroshenko
Ukraine’s seventh richest man and a major supporter of protests in Kiev’s Maidan square wins the country’s presidency.
Petro Poroshenko, winner of Ukraine’s presidential elections and business magnate, has been in politics since late 1990s, supporting all major political figures at different times under both pro-Western and Moscow-backed administrations.
The 48-year-old, born in the southwestern city of Odessa, was one of the organisers of the pro-European uprising which ousted Russia-backed President Viktor Yanukovich in February 2014.
Poroshenko, known as the “chocolate king” because of his confectionery manufacturing business, stepped into politics in 1998 when he joined the Social Democratic Party. Backed by Ukraine’s President Leonid Kuchma, he was elected to parliament.
In 2000, he became one of the founding members of the Party of Regions, the party that was forced out of the government 14 years later with the help of Poroshenko.
It was not the first time he went against his partners. In 2004, Ukraine’s seventh richest man, with a net worth of $1.3bn, became one of the sponsors of the so-called Orange Revolution that ousted President Kuchma in favour of Viktor Yushchenko. The move earned him a nickname “Yushchenko’s wallet” and a job as the head of the National Security and Defence Council.
A year later, a public falling out with then-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, forced him to resign. Poroshenko was accused of corruption, defending the interests of Viktor Pinchuk, who had acquired a state firm for $80m that was independently valued at $1bn. However, state prosecutors dismissed an abuse of power investigation against him in a month.
In 2009, Poroshenko returned to power as a foreign minister and re-gained his job in the National Security and Defence Council. A year later, he was dismissed by President Viktor Yanukovich, Yushchenko’s successor.
However, in 2012 Yanukovich restored Poroshenko to the government as the minister of Trade and Economic Development. In the same year, he also returned to the parliament after winning with more than 70 percent of the votes as an independent candidate, representing the Vinnytsia region, where he grew up and founded his business empire.
A year later, he became the first Ukrainian billionaire to support the anti-government uprising that started in late November 2013.
Riding a tide
Following the so-called revolution, Poroshenko became a candidate for Ukraine’s presidency, topping the pre-election surveys that predicted his outright victory. Poroshenko’s campaign focused on long-term expectations of the Ukrainian population: higher living standards and less corruption.
Porosheko enjoys support from the European Union and the USA, voicing pro-EU integration and pro-NATO sentiments.
However, he said cooperation and dialogue with Moscow would be essential in the future.
Russia is the biggest export market for Ukrainian products, including Roshen, Poroshenko’s confectionery company. Poroshenko suffered major loses after Roshen products were banned from Russia in July 2013. The embargo was lifted four months later.
However, Poroshenko claimed he would never recognise the annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula by Moscow and promised to fight for the country’s territorial integrity.