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Yulia Tymoshenko Biography

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Yulia Volodymyrivna Tymoshenko (Ukrainian: Юлія Володимирівна Тимошенко) (born 27 November 1960), Ukrainian politician, was the Prime Minister of Ukraine from 24 January to 8 September 2005. She is leader of the All-Ukrainian Union Fatherland party and the Yulia Tymoshenko Electoral Bloc. Prior to that she was a successful businesswoman in the gas industry and became one of the wealthiest people in Ukraine.

Before becoming Ukraine's first female prime minister, she was considered the most significant ally of opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko (she had been his deputy 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 Western media publications dubbed her "Joan of Arc of the Orange Revolution". On 28 July 2005, Forbes magazine named her third most powerful woman in the world, behind only Condoleezza Rice and Wu Yi

Tymoshenko was born in Dnipropetrovsk. Her origins have been the basis of some debate. Tymoshenko says she is half-Latvian on her father's side and half-Ukrainian, on her mother's side. Her father's last name, Grigyan, can be also misinterpreted as being Armenian. It is sometimes claimed that her maiden name is Telegina (like her mother's actual name) and that she has Russian roots. However, Tymoshenko is widely perceived as a Jew. In 2005, she was openly called Jewish by Yevhen Chervonenko (her former minister, one of the leaders of Jewish community). She publicly denied that but assured that she was sympathetic to the problems of Jewish people.

Tymoshenko 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 Komsomol - Soviet official Communist youth organization. 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, as part of the perestroika initiatives, she founded and headed a Komsomol's video rental chain (which grew to be quite successful), and later privatized it.

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. During privatisation in Ukraine, which mirrored that in Russia in terms of corruption and mismanagement, she became one of the wealthiest oligarchs in Ukraine, exporting metals. From 1995 to 1997, Tymoshenko was the president of the United Energy Systems of Ukraine, a privately owned middleman 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 has been reselling enormous quantities of stolen Russian gas and avoiding taxation of those deals.

In the business period of her life, Tymoshenko involved business relations (either co-operative or hostile) with many important figures of Ukraine, first of all, in Dnipropetrovsk. The list includes Pavlo Lazarenko, Viktor Pinchuk, Ihor Kolomoyskyi, Rinat Akhmetov, and, of course, Leonid Kuchma - the then-President originating from Dnipropetrovsk. As part of her gas-dealing business, Tymoshenko has also been closely linked to the management of Russian Gazprom.

Tymoshenko made a move into politics in 1996, and was elected to the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) from the Kirovohrad oblast, winning a record 92.3% of the vote in her constituency. She was re-elected in 1998 and 2002. In 1998, she became the Chair of the Budget Committee of Verkhovna Rada.

From 1999 to 2001, Tymoshenko was the Deputy Prime Minister for fuel and energy sector in the cabinet of Viktor Yushchenko. She was fired by President Leonid Kuchma in January 2001 after developing a conflict with the oligarchs in the industry.

In February 2001, Tymoshenko was arrested on charges of forging customs documents and smuggling of gas between 1995 and 1997 (while the president of United Energy Systems of Ukraine) but was released and cleared of charges several weeks later. Her political supporters organized several protest rallies near the Lukyanivska Prison where she was held in custody. According to Tymoshenko, the charges were fabricated by Kuchma's regime, under the influence of oligarchs threatened by her efforts to root out corruption and institute market-based reforms.

In addition, Tymoshenko's husband, Oleksandr, spent two years in hiding in order to avoid incarceration on charges the couple said were unfounded and politically motivated by the former Kuchma administration.

Once the charges were dropped, she became one of the leaders of street-level campaigns against President Kuchma for his alleged role in the murder of the journalist Georgi Gongadze. In this campaign, Tymoshenko first shown herself as a passionate revolutionary-like leader. E.g., she was aired on TV when smashing the prison windows during one of the rallies. According to media sources, she once lift up an expensive skirt she was wearing to gather stones for throwing. The following year she was involved in a mysterious car accident that almost killed her—an episode some believe may have been a government assassination attempt.

Tymoshenko's critics have suggested that, as an oligarch, she gained her fortune improperly. Some have speculated that her familiarity with the illegal conduct of business common in Ukraine uniquely qualifies her to combat corruption—if she is willing to do so. Her former business partner, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko, has been convicted in the United States on charges of billions-worth money laundering, corruption and fraud.

On 28 January 2005, following the Orange Revolution, Ukrainian prosecutors agreed, and closed the cases against then Prime Minister Tymoshenko and her family members due to lack of evidence. These cases included Tymoshenko's husband and her father-in-law, Henadiy Tymoshenko. Oleksandr Tymoshenko returned to Ukraine soon after that.

Despite this questionable past, her transition from oligarch to reformer was believed by many to be both genuine and effective. As energy Deputy 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 industrial 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.

However, several months into her government, a failure to deliver on the promise of reform after the Orange Revolution began to damage Ms Tymoshenko's administration. On 8 September 2005, after the resignation of several senior officials including the Head of the Security and Defence Council Petro Poroshenko and Deputy Prime Minister Mykola Tomenko, Yulia Tymoshenko's government was dismissed by President Victor Yuschenko. She was succeeded by Yuriy Yehanurov, governor of Dnipropetrovsk province.

She was briefly arrested in February 2001. At the time, Tymoshenko had become one of the most outspoken critics of then President Leonid Kuchma, and most analysts suggest that Russia's attention to Tymoshenko came as a result of the country's attempts to support their ally Kuchma. Russian charges against Tymoshenko -- never fully explained -- were not dropped until after her dismissal from the prime minister's position.

While leading the opposition against Kuchma from 2001-2004, Tymoshenko attacked Kuchma over corruption and the death of Georgiy Gongadze, an opposition journalist who was kidnapped and killed in late 2000. During this time, she founded Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc (Блок Юлії Тимошенко), a political bloc that received 7.2 percent of the vote in the 2002 parliamentary election. She is the head of the Batkivshchina (Fatherland) political party.

On 24 January 2005 she was appointed as acting Prime Minister of Ukraine under Yushchenko's presidency. On 4 February 2005, at 2:54pm (Kyiv time), Yulia Tymoshenko was ratified by the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) by an overwhelming majority of 373 votes (226 were required for approval).

She remained Prime Minister until 8 September 2005, when her government was dismissed by President Yushchenko. Later, he criticized her work as head of government, suggesting it had led to an economic slowdown and political conflicts within the ruling coalition.

After her dismissal Tymoshenko started to tour the country in a bid to win the 2006 Ukrainian parliamentary election as the leader of her Bloc. She soon made clear that she wanted the post of Prime Minister back.

The Bloc came second on the election, earning an estimated 130 seats and causing wide expectations that it may unite in coalition again with Yushchenko's Our Ukraine party and the Socialist Party of Ukraine in order to keep the Party of Regions from gaining power. Tymoshenko again stated her desire to become Prime Minister in such a coalition since her party would be the biggest party in it. However, the negotiations between former revolutionary allies undergo with many difficulties and mutual public allegations.

After talks on May 5, Tymoshenko announced that a coalition between the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, Our Ukraine and Socialist parties should be finalized on May 10-11. It is now widely expected that she will be named as the new premier.

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