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Yuliya Volodymyrivna Tymoshenko (Ukrainian: Юлія Володимирівна Тимошенко) (born November 27 1960, in Dnipropetrovs'k, Ukrainian SSR) is the Prime Minister of Ukraine. She is a politician and leader of the Bat'kivshchyna (Батьківщина, Fatherland) party and the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc. Prior to that she was a successful businesswoman in the gas industry and became one of the wealthiest people in Ukraine.
Before becoming prime minister, she was considered the most significant ally of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko (whose deputy she had been, when he was prime minister), and had a very high profile during the 2004 presidential election. She was also one of the key leaders of the Orange Revolution inspired by those elections, which eventually brought Yushchenko to power. In this period, some media publications dubbed her "Joan of Arc of the Orange Revolution".
Tymoshenko's origins have been the basis of some debate. Some have claimed that her maiden name is Grigyan, and that she is half-Armenian on her father's side. However, her supporters insist that she is ethnically Russian, her maiden name being Telegina. She married Oleksandr Tymoshenko , a son of a mid-level Soviet communist party bureaucrat, in 1979, and began rising through a number of positions under the Soviet system. She graduated from Dnipropetrovs'k State University with a degree in economics in 1984, and went on to gain a candidate degree (the equivalent of a Ph.D.) in economics. She has since authored about 50 papers.
In 1989, she founded a video rental chain which grew to be quite successful. Tymoshenko experienced a rise in power under the Soviet system, but it was after the demise of the Soviet Union that she rose to particular prominence, directing several energy-related companies and acquiring a significant fortune between 1990 and 1998. From 1995 to 1997, Tymoshenko was the president of United Energy Systems of Ukraine, a privately owned company which became the main importer of Russian natural gas in 1996. During that time she was nicknamed "gas princess" in the light of accusations she had sold abroad enormous quantities of stolen Russian gas.
Tymoshenko made a move into politics in 1996, and was elected as a representative of Kirovohrad oblast, winning a record 92.3% of the vote in her district. She was re-elected in 1998 and 2002. In 1998, she became the Chair of the Budget Committee of the Ukrainian parliament. From 1999 to 2001, Tymoshenko was the deputy prime minister for fuel in the energy sector in the government of Viktor Yushchenko.
Tymoshenko was fired by President Leonid Kuchma in January 2001, on charges of forging customs documents and smuggling Russian natural gas while she was the president of United Energy Systems of Ukraine between 1995 and 1997. She was arrested in February 2001 but was released and cleared of charges several weeks later. According to Tymoshenko, the accusations were fabricated by Kuchma's regime, under the influence of coal industry oligarchs threatened by her efforts to root out corruption and institute market-based reforms.
However, Tymoshenko's critics have suggested that, as a so-called oligarch, her fortune was gained improperly. Some have speculated her familiarity with the illegal conduct of business common in Ukraine uniquely qualifies her to combat corruption. Her former business partner, the former Ukraine Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko is fighting extradition back to Ukraine on allegations of abusing his office for personal gain. He is believed to have sent billions of dollars outside of the country. In addition her husband, Oleksandr, is still in hiding outside of Ukraine facing charges he and his wife describe as unfounded and politically motivated by the former Kuchma administration. Their lawyers are believed to be preparing legal action to dismiss these charges.
Despite this colorful past, her transition from oligarch to reformer is believed by many to be both genuine and effective. As energy Vice Prime Minister, she virtually ended many corrupt arrangements in the energy sector. Under her stewardship, Ukraine's revenue collections from the electricity industry grew by several thousand per cent. She scrapped the practice of barter in the electricity market, requiring customers to pay for their electricity in cash. She also terminated exemptions for many organizations which excluded them from having their power disconnected. Her reforms meant that the government had sufficient funds to pay civil servants and increase salaries.
Leadership of opposition
She was briefly arrested in the Russian Federation in February 2001, but was subsequently released. It has been claimed that she is still wanted by the Russian government on various financial crime charges, although her defenders say the Russian government is politically motivated to defeat her.
After her release, Tymoshenko became one of most outspoken leaders of the Ukrainian opposition, attacking Kuchma over corruption and the death of Georgiy Gongadze, an opposition journalist who was kidnapped and killed in late 2000. She then founded the Yuliya Tymoshenko Bloc (Блок Юлії Тимошенко), a political party that received 7.2% of the vote in the 2002 parliamentary election.
On January 24, 2005 she was appointed as acting Prime Minister of Ukraine under Yushchenko's presidency. After prolonged negotiations on the composition of the Cabinet, Yuliya Tymoshenko was ratified by the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) on February 4, 2005, at 2:54pm (Kyiv time), by an overwhelming majority of 373 votes (226 were required for approval). Within minutes, Prime Minister Tymoshenko named her Cabinet while President Yushchenko was signing appointment edicts in the parliamentary chamber.
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