Yulia Timoshenko


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(b. Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, 27 Nov. 1960)

Ukrainian; Prime Minister 2005, 2007–  Before entering politics, Timoshenko, trained as an economist and as an engineer, had reportedly made a fortune working in the gas industry, earning herself the name the ‘gas princess’. She had been President of United Energy Systems of Ukraine (UESU), a company which imported gas from Russia and exported goods to Russia. Timoshenko was elected to the Ukrainian parliament in 1996. She rose rapidly, becoming Deputy Prime Minister in Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko's cabinet in 1999, but was dismissed by President Leonid Kuchma in 2001. She was arrested, charged, and briefly detained following charges relating to gas smuggling during the time she had been President of UESU.

Timoshenko allied herself with Yushchenko, who had been dismissed as Prime Minister, supporting his campaign to become President, despite herself having been expected to run. The result of the presidential election of November 2004 was controversial, the official result named the Russian-leaning Viktor Yanukovych as winner while Western observers claimed widespread vote rigging. Viktor Yushchenko, whose party colour was orange, supported a civil disobedience campaign, the Orange Revolution, that protested at the result. Timoshenko was very active in the protests, inspiring the crowds with her speeches and trademark ‘Ukrainian’ hair braids. The election was re-run a month later and Yushchenko won. He nominated Timoshenko as Prime Minister, and she was approved by parliament in February 2005. However, Yushchenko dismissed her in September 2005 after she had clashed with officials. In January 2006 Timoshenko criticized her former ally Yushchenko for a deal made with Gazprom, the Russian energy company, after Gazprom had briefly cut off gas supplies to the Ukraine. Timoshenko believed that the deal gave foreign interests a virtual monopoly over imports of gas into Ukraine. Following elections held in 2007, Timoshenko's party formed a coalition with Yushchenko, and she was again appointed Prime Minister, but the coalition faced difficulties following disagreements between Timoshenko and Yushchenko over Ukraine's reaction to Russia's invasion of Georgian territory in summer 2008. Suffering economic problems caused by the worldwide economic recession, Timoshenko and Yuschenko re-formed an enlarged coalition at the end of 2008, but the rivalry between them continues to impede their government's response to the economic crisis.

Subjects: Politics.

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