News / Europe

Who Might Lead Ukraine?

A photographer takes a picture of a sign reading
A photographer takes a picture of a sign reading "President of Ukraine" at the entrance to the presidential administration building in Kyiv Feb. 22, 2014.
The ouster of president Viktor Yanukovych marks a resounding victory for Ukraine's pro-European protesters after their deadly, three-month standoff with the government.

But it also plunges the country into new political uncertainty.

As the opposition-dominated parliament scrambles to work out who is in charge, speculation is rife about who will emerge as the new leaders of Ukraine and its 45 million people.

Oleksandr Turchynov

Ukraine's parliament overwhelmingly elected its speaker as interim president on February 23, just one day after throwing out Yanukovych.
Turchynov, a close confident of Yulia Tymoshenko, will serve as president until a presidential election on May 25.

A former head of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), he is a leading member of her Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party whose political career has been closely intertwined with Tymoshenko's.

Oleksandr TurchynovOleksandr Turchynov
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Oleksandr Turchynov
Oleksandr Turchynov
Turchynov is a Baptist - setting him apart from the traditionally Orthodox and Catholic majority - and a prolific writer, whose psychological thriller "Illusion of Fear" was made into a film and submitted as the country's entry for the Academy Award for best foreign-language film in 2008.

Although he now holds the levers of power, he is not entirely trusted by Euromaidan activists and has angered many by asking them to go home after Yanukovych's departure from Kyiv.

Critics say his hands are dirty, an accusation fueled by WikiLeaks documents claiming he destroyed classified evidence of Tymoshenko's connections to an organized-crime boss during his stint as head of the SBU.

Turchynov is widely criticized for lacking charisma, which could hurt his political chances in coming months. His run for Kyiv mayor in 2008 ended in crushing defeat, despite Tymoshenko's backing.

His 2007 rant against gays, in which he called homosexuality a "perversion," has also earned him foes among rights advocates.

Yulia Tymoshenko

The arch-rival of Yanukovych heads the country's second-largest political party, Batkivshchyna.
Tymoshenko, the heroine of Ukraine's 2004 Orange Revolution, was narrowly defeated by Yanukovych in a 2010 presidential election and later jailed on charges of abuse of office widely seen as revenge by Yanukovych.

Her February 22 release from a prison hospital after more than two years in jail unexpectedly thrusts her back into Ukraine's political arena.

Yulia TymoshenkoYulia Tymoshenko
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Yulia Tymoshenko
Yulia Tymoshenko
Despite rejecting a possible appointment as acting prime minister, she has indicated she will consider running in the new presidential election set for May 25.

The appointment of Turchynov, one of her closest allies, as interim president could boost her chances of returning to power.

A number of Western politicians, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have congratulated her on her release. She has also earned the backing of a powerful Russian lawmaker, Leonid Slutsky.

Her spell as prime minister after the Orange Revolution, however, was controversial and many Euromaidan protesters view her with suspicion. Many protesters say they yearn for fresh faces in the country's leadership.

Her bitter fallout with Orange Revolution ally Viktor Yushchenko, in particular, alienated many voters and is now raising questions about her ability to provide a unifying leadership for Ukraine.

Vitali Klitschko

A fierce critic of Yanukovych for over a decade, the boxer-turned-politician has been a visible presence at the Euromaidan protests.

The 42-year-old heads the UDAR (Punch) political party, which campaigns against government corruption. Unlike most politicians, including in the opposition, his name is untainted by corruption.

Vitali KlitschkoVitali Klitschko
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Vitali Klitschko
Vitali Klitschko
Klitschko has rejected the office of deputy prime minister offered to him by Yanukovych, dismissing it as a "poisoned" move aimed at sowing division within opposition forces.

He has urged protesters to stay on Kyiv's Independence Square following Yanukovych's ouster and vowed that those responsible for the killings of demonstrators will be prosecuted.

But Klitschko also drew the ire of many on the streets last week when he shook hands with Yanukovych after the president signed an agreement with the opposition.

Klitschko plans to run for president in May.

Arseniy Yatsenyuk

Another prominent ally of Tymoshenko, Yatsenyuk held senior posts in the pre-Yanukovych government, including foreign minister and deputy governor of the central bank.

He supports EU integration and a corruption-free Ukraine.

Arseniy YatsenyukArseniy Yatsenyuk
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Arseniy Yatsenyuk
Arseniy Yatsenyuk
The former lawyer has been Batkivshchyna's main negotiator during the Euromaidan protests and has called on lawmakers to name some of its top activists as ministers.

But he appears to have lost some of his clout since Turchynov's appointment as interim president.

Petro Poroshenko

Widely dubbed Ukraine's "chocolate king," the influential business tycoon and Tymoshenko ally is another figure to watch.

Petro PoroshenkoPetro Poroshenko
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Petro Poroshenko
Petro Poroshenko
The Batkivshchyna member and long-standing critic of Yanukovych has previously served as foreign minister and trade minister. One of the few oligarchs who explicitly supported the protesters, Poroshenko also won plaudits from the Euromaidan by joining a memorial service this weekend for demonstrators killed in the violence.

He is estimated to sit on a fortune of $1 billion.

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