Crisis in Ukraine: A who's who of political players
People pass by a portrait of Yulia Tymoshenko, a prominent opposition leader at Independence Square in Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, Feb. 24, 2014. (AP/Marko Drobnjakovic)
Sonja Puzic, CTVNews.ca
Published Monday, February 24, 2014 9:40AM EST
Last Updated Monday, February 24, 2014 11:12AM EST
The tumult in Ukraine enters a new chapter this week, with a newly appointed acting president in power and an arrest warrant issued for the country’s former leader. Here’s a who’s who of the key political figures involved in the Euromaidan protests:
Yanukovych became Ukraine’s president in 2010, after an unsuccessful bid for office in 2004. His government appeared on track to sign a partnership deal with the European Union late last year, until Yanukovych suddenly reversed course following a lengthy meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Many Ukrainians, angry that the president chose to side with Russia rather than the EU, took to the streets in protest. After more than two months of demonstrations, the protests in Kyiv turned violent and deadly.
Yanukovych eventually signed an agreement with the opposition, but then fled the capital. He is reportedly hiding in Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. Ukraine’s acting government has issued a warrant for his arrest, accusing him of being responsible for the deaths of dozens of protesters in Kyiv.
After dismissing Yanukovych, the Ukrainian parliament voted its speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, the interim president. Turchynov, a member of Ukraine’s “Fatherland” political party, once served as acting prime minister. He was elected to parliament in 1998 and is an ally of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
As the leader of the Fatherland opposition party, Tymoshenko served as Ukraine’s prime minister briefly in 2005, and again from late 2007 to 2010. She was one of the leaders of the country’s Orange Revolution a decade ago. Before entering politics, she held a number of high-level positions in Ukraine’s gas industry, including a stint as CEO of the Ukrainian Gasoline corporation.
Recognizable around the world for her iconic hairstyle – a crown-like braid -- Tymoshenko has been a controversial figure in Ukraine. For years, allegations of corruption involving her dealings in the gas industry and politics swirled around her. In 2011, Tymoshenko was found guilty of abuse of power and sentenced to seven years in prison.
In the midst of the so-called Euromaidan (literally meaning “Eurosquare”) protests last week, Tymoshenko was freed from a prison hospital. She later appeared in Kyiv’s Independence Square in a wheelchair, reportedly suffering from serious back problems, and announced her intention to run for president.
Known as “Dr. Ironfist,” Klitschko is a member of the Ukrainian parliament and leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance for Reform Party. A former world heavyweight champion, he gave up professional boxing in December in order to focus on the crisis in Ukraine and challenge Yanukovych’s presidency.
Klitschko has been a vocal presence at the Euromaidan protests, sometimes along with his younger brother Wladimir Klitschko, who is also a boxer.
As the parliamentary leader of the Fatherland party, he has been teaming up with Klitschko to urge the EU to impose sanctions on Ukrainian government leaders and revive the EU-Ukraine deal. Yatsenyk has served at foreign and economy minister. He unsuccessfully ran for president in 2010.