Leonid Kuchma

Leonid Kuchma
Леонід Кýчм?
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Leonid Kuchma

Preceded by
Succeeded by

NationalityUkrainian
SpouseLudmila Tumanova

Ukraine

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Leonid Danylovych Kuchma (Ukrainian: Леонід Данилович Кýчма; born August 9, 1938) was the second President of Ukraine from July 19, 1994, to January 23, 2005.

Early life

Kuchma was born in Chaikyne village of Chernihiv Oblast (Ukrainian SSR). His father was killed in a battlefield during the World War II in 1944. Kuchma attended Dnipropetrovsk University and graduated with a degree in rocket engineering. He moved into senior management posts of the Yuzhmash industrial company in Dnipropetrovsk, eventually becoming its top executive, as well as in the Communist Party elite. As such, Kuchma played an important role in Soviet strategic missile and space rocket programs.

Some researchers believe that Kuchma's earlier career was significantly boosted by his marriage to Lyudmila Tumanova, the daughter of a local CPSU chief.

Kuchma was an amateur guitar player in his younger years. He was also known for his skill at the complicated card game preferans.

Political career

From 1990 to 1992 Kuchma was a member of the Ukrainian parliament (Committee on Defence and State Security), and became Prime Minister of Ukraine in 1992.

Kuchma resigned from this position in September 1993 to successfully run for the presidency in 1994 on a platform to boost the economy by restoring economic relations with Russia. He also declared his intentions to implement economic reforms.

Early in his presidency, Kuchma arranged a $730 million loan from the IMF, signed a "Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Partnership" with Russia, and endorsed a round of talks with the CIS. Additionally, he referred to Russian as "an official language." He signed a special partnership agreement with NATO and even raised the possibility of membership of the alliance. He was re-elected in 1999 to his second term.

After Kuchma's popularity at home and abroad sank as he became mired in corruption scandals, he turned to Russia as his new ally, saying Ukraine needed a "multivector" foreign policy that balanced eastern and western interests.

Opponents accused him of involvement in the killing in 2000 of journalist Georgiy Gongadze (see also SBU, "Cassette Scandal", Mykola Mel'nychenko), which he has always denied. They also blamed him for restrictions on press freedom. Kuchma is believed to have played a key role in sacking the Cabinet of Viktor Yushchenko by Verkhovna Rada on April 26, 2001.

Kuchma's Prime Minister from 2002 until early January 2005 was Viktor Yanukovych, after Kuchma dismissed Anatoliy Kinakh, his previous appointee.

Role in the Crisis of 2004

Enlarge picture
President Kuchma, in 2004


Kuchma's role in the election's crisis of 2004 is not entirely clear. After the second round on November 22, 2004, it appeared that Yanukovych had won the election by fraud, which caused the opposition and independent observers to dispute the results, leading to the Orange Revolution.

Kuchma was urged by Yanukovych and Viktor Medvedchuk (the head of the presidential office) to declare a state of emergency and hold the inauguration of Yanukovych. He denied the request by admittedly stating in a phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin that he refused to pass the government into the hands of an alleged Donetsk criminal. Later, Yanukovych publicly accused Kuchma of a betrayal.

Nevertheless, Kuchma refused to officially dismiss Prime Minister Yanukovych after the parliament passed a motion of no confidence against the Cabinet on December 1, 2004.

Soon after, Kuchma left the country. He returned to Ukraine in March 2005.

Post-Presidency

In 2005, the Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s office instigated criminal proceedings against Kuchma and members of his former administration in connection with the murder of journalist Georgiy R. Gongadze. [1]

In 2005 Kuchma started to smoke, first appearing with cigarettes and cigars publicly. It is a return to the habit he quit back in 1992. [2]

Policiticians closely associated with Kuchma

Aides and advisors that became public figures after or before

  • Volodymyr Horbulin - personal friend, aide, later Head of the National Security and Defense Council
  • Volodymyr Lytvyn - long-term first aide, later Head of Presidential Administration, then Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament)
  • Viktor Medvedchuk - business oligarch, then First Vice Speaker of Verkhovna Rada, Head of Presidential Administration in 2001-2004
  • Dmytro Tabachnyk - manager of the Kuchma's first successful election campaign, later Head of Presidential Administration, then Vice Prime Minister (in cabinet of Yanukovych)

Influential statesmen

Business oligarchs and managers of important state-owned companies

Related Literature

  • Sochor, Zenovia A. 1994. Political Culture and Foreign Policy: Elections in Ukraine 1994. Printed in: Tismaneanu, Vladmir (ed.). 1995. Political Culture and Civil Society in Russia and the New States of Eurasia. ISBN 1-56324-364-4. pp.208-224.

See also

Preceded by
Valentyn Symonenko
Prime Minister of Ukraine
1992–1993
Succeeded by
Yukhym Zvyahilsky
Preceded by
Leonid Kravchuk
President of Ukraine
1994–2005
Succeeded by
Viktor Yushchenko

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