In 1996, coincidentally in the same year that Vladimir Putin got his first job at KremlinYulia Tymoshenko enters the political scene in Ukraine.
Resourceful, outspoken and charismatic. The businesswoman from Dnipro was quickly irritated.
This insurgency lasted for nearly two decades, and involved arrests, revolutions and accusations of corruption.
In the process, Tymoshenko became a household name worldwide.
In many of the events leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Tymoshenko was near the eye of the storm.
But in recent years, it has been quiet around women with the iconic hoop of braided hair.
Today, Tymoshenko turns 61 years old. He lives in the center of Kyiv, and is used to airplane alarms ringing in the Ukrainian capital. In an interview with after post he described his hometown as an “open bleeding wound”.
– All normal people are afraid of war. I’m scared too. But I will stay in Kyiv until we win, he told Aftenposten.
The story of the political career of Yulia Tymoshenko contains several contradictions.
As a frequent and vehement critic of the oligarchs’ influence over Ukrainian politics, it may come as a surprise that he himself made a lot of money in the 1990s.
– In the mid-90s, he formed the Ukrainian Unified Energy System, which supplies gas to large industrial bases of Ukraine. According to some estimates, he became one of the richest people in Ukraine.
this writes BBC in his profile on Tymoshenko in 2014, added:
– She is nicknamed “gas princess”.
According to some estimates, Tymoshenko earned billions of dollars during this time, and is considered by many to be an oligarch.
The politician has also been criticized for allegedly having close ties to “other” oligarchs, something he himself vehemently denies.
– I was never supported by the oligarchs. Throughout my political life, I have struggled against systems that serve oligarchs, Tymoshenko said in an interview with Washington Post.
Tymoshenko’s role in Ukrainian history has been marked by controversy, OsloMet researcher Aadne Aasland told Dagbladet:
– He’s always been controversial. Many were enthusiastic, but many were vehemently opposed. A polarizing politician, Aasland said.
He further explained that:
Together with Viktor Yushchenko, he became a symbol of Ukraine’s confrontation with the corrupt power elite, the struggle for democracy and orientation to the West.
The Orange Revolution was the event that really put Tymoshenko on the map.
In 2004, Tymoshenko’s political rival, Viktor Yanukovych, unlike Viktor Yushchenko, won the presidential election accused of fraud.
In response, Yulia Tymoshenko, together with Viktor Yushchenko and other prominent politicians who opposed Yanukovych, formed a movement that prompted millions of Ukrainians to demand re-election.
Successful re-election to the coalition, Yanukovych had to see himself defeated.
However, the happiness of the two leaders of the Orange Revolution should not last long.
After the Orange Revolution, Yushchenko won the presidential election, and Tymoshenko’s alliance partner was named the country’s first female prime minister.
It happened in January 2005, and July of the same year was appointed Forbes Tymoshenko is the third most powerful woman in the world.
In September, still in 2005, Yushchenko issued a public criticism of Tymoshenko, stating that he had decided to dissolve his government.
– While he and Yushchenko lost faith in each other fairly quickly after the Orange Revolution, many also lost faith in him, Aasland explained.
After almost seven months, Tymoshenko’s first round as prime minister is over.
– This, the lack of reforms and the economic downturn might see Yanukovych return as president, Aasland explained.
When he ran for president in 2010, he lost the election, albeit by a narrow margin, to Yanukovych who was previously despised and accused of electoral fraud.
This was the beginning of a nightmare for Tymoshenko.
In 2011, Tymoshenko, after being accused of violating his powers in negotiations for a gas treaty with Russia, which many see as favorable to Russia, was sentenced to seven years in prison.
Leading the charge was Yanukovych’s political rival.
This prison also has an element of contradiction, Morten Strand wrote in 2011:
One is that the possible punitive Tymoshenko agreement was made with Vladimir Putin, the man who publicly supported Yanukovych in the 2004 election, and has publicly expressed his contempt for the Orange Revolution.
However, in 2014, Yanukovych once again managed to stir up enough discontent that there was again a revolutionary atmosphere in his home country.
The situation became tense enough for Yanukovych to flee the country.
Shortly after, Putin decided that the time was right to annex the Crimean peninsula.
At the same time, Yulia Tymoshenko was finally released from prison.
“From today, our homeland will be able to see the sun and the sky because the dictatorship is over,” Tymoshenko told reporters.
However, Tymoshenko’s own future will prove more shady.
– He may have hoped to be happily received when he was released from prison after Yanukovych’s escape from Ukraine, but many see him as a politician of the past, says Aasland.
He further explained:
– Many stopped believing him because he, as a powerful politician, was always seeking as much personal influence as possible, and then preferably by compromising democratic principles.
Zelensky charged forward
Despite the disappointing reception after a long prison sentence, however, Tymoshenko is far from done with his political ambitions.
In 2019, she was running for president again, and despite her declining popularity, many still support the “gas princess”.
– He – and his party – still has support in some population groups, especially those who want bigger state subsidies and higher pensions, Aasland explained.
– Usually a number of retirees and a number of people in small towns and villages.
According to Aasland, Tymoshenko actually did well in the polls before the 2019 presidential election.
It took the former actor Volodymyr Zelenskyj to enter the political scene:
– After Zelenskyj ran and he didn’t advance to the second round, he has lost a lot of popularity, says Aasland about the 2019 election,
Since the defeat to Zelensky, Tymoshenko seems unable to restore his former position, and Aasland summarizes the role of today’s politicians as follows:
– Today he plays a less influential role in Ukrainian politics.
However, he has not remained silent since Putin invaded the country more than a month ago.
In an interview with France24 In late February, he called on NATO and the international community, among other things, to close off Ukrainian airspace. At the same time, he called for peacekeepers from the United Nations in the country.
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