Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko (born 26 September 1965) is a Ukrainian businessman and politician (former Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister of Trade and Economic Development of Ukraine) sometimes cited as one of the most influential people in Ukrainian politics.
From February 2007 until March 2012 Poroshenko headed the Council of Ukraine’s National Bank.
Poroshenko was born in the city of Bolhrad, Odessa Oblast, on 26 September 1965, but was raised in the city of Vinnytsia in central Ukraine. In 1989, he graduated with a degree in economics from the faculty of international relations and international law (subsequently the Institute of International Relations) of Kiev State University.
After graduation, Poroshenko started his own business selling cacao beans. In the 1990s, he acquired control over several confectionery enterprises. Subsequently, he united his holdings in that industry into Roshen group, the largest confectionery manufacturer in Ukraine. The fortune he made in the chocolate industry earned him the nickname Chocolate King.
Now Poroshenko’s business empire also includes several car and bus plants, Leninska Kuznya shipyard, the 5 Kanal television channel as well as other businesses.
In March 2012 Forbes placed him on the Forbes list of billionaires at 1,153rd place, with $1 billion.
Swedish economist and one-time Ukraine national government advisor Anders Åslund described Poroshenko as an “uncommonly courageous” man willing to challenge the Yanukovych family’s near-stranglehold on Ukrainian economic power and support the pro-EU protest movement. According to Åslund, Poroshenko’s stance is made more tolerable by the fact that his sugar and confectionery empire is less subject to the Yanukovych’s direct control than heavy industry.
Poroshenko first won a seat in the Verkhovna Rada (the Parliament of Ukraine) in 1998. He was initially a member of United Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (SDPU(o)), the party most loyal to president Leonid Kuchma at the time. Poroshenko left SDPU(o) in 2000 to create an independent left-of-center faction Solidarity, in 2001 Poroshenko was instrumental in creating Party of Regions, also loyal to Kuchma (Solidarity never joined Party of Regions however). However, in December 2001 he broke ranks with Kuchma supporters to become campaign chief of Viktor Yushchenko’s opposition Our Ukraine Bloc. After parliamentary elections in March 2002 in which Our Ukraine won the biggest share of the popular vote and Poroshenko a seat in parliament, Poroshenko served as head of the parliamentary budget committee.
Poroshenko is considered a close confidant of Viktor Yushchenko who is a god-father of Poroshenko’s daughters. Being probably the wealthiest businessman among Yushchenko supporters, Poroshenko was often cited as one of the chief sponsors of Our Ukraine and the Orange Revolution.
After Viktor Yushchenko won the presidential elections in 2004, Poroshenko was appointed Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council. Amid the September 2005 political crisis in Ukraine that followed the highly publicized mutual allegations of corruption in Ukrainian politics, Poroshenko was dismissed by the president who at the same time sacked the entire cabinet of ministers led by prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, Poroshenko’s political arch-rival in post-Orange Revolution Ukraine. After his sacking as General Prosecutor of Ukraine by President Yuschenko in October 2005 Svyatoslav Piskun claimed his dismissal by Yuschenko came because he refused to institute criminal proceedings against Tymoshenko, and refused to drop proceedings against Poroshenko.
In the March 2006 parliamentary election Poroshenko was re-elected to the Ukrainian parliament through the list of Our Ukraine electoral bloc. He chaired the parliamentary Committee on Finance and Banking. Allegedly, since Poroshenko claimed the post of Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament for himself, the Socialist Party of Ukraine chose to be part of the Alliance of National Unity because it was promised that their party leader, Oleksandr Moroz, would be elected Chairman if the coalition were formed. This left Poroshenko’s Our Ukraine and their ally Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc out of the Government.
Poroshenko did not run in the September 2007 parliamentary election.
Since February 2007 Poroshenko has headed the Council of Ukraine’s National Bank.
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Poroshenko at the Russian-Ukrainian international commission meeting in 2009
Ukrainian President Yushchenko nominated Poroshenko for foreign minister on 7 October 2009. Poroshenko was appointed by the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) on 9 October 2009. On 12 October 2009 President Yushchenko (re)appointed Poroshenko into the National Security and Defense Council.
Poroshenko supports Ukrainian NATO-membership and stated in December 2009 “I believe that with a political will and a public wish to do so, public support for politicians in charge, and a clear and right awareness policy, becoming a NATO member could be accomplished within a year or two”. However he also stated NATO membership should not be a goal in itself “Our goal must be conducting reforms, improving living standards. I believe that here we must do everything to improve the situation in the country rather than obtain somebody’s permission for some actions”.
Although dismissed on 11 March 2010 as foreign minister President Viktor Yanukovych expressed hope for further cooperation with Poroshenko.
Late February 2012 Poroshenko was named as the new Minister of Trade and Economic Development in the Azarov Government; on 9 March 2012 President Yanukovych stated he wanted Poroshenko to work in the government on the post of economic development and trade minister. On 23 March 2012 Poroshenko was appointed economic development and trade minister of Ukraine by Yanukovych. The same month he stepped down as head of the Council of Ukraine’s National Bank.
Ukrainian opposition leaders Poroshenko, Vitali Klitschko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk meeting United States Secretary of State John Kerry at the Munich Security Conference 2014.
Poroshenko returned to Verkhovna Rada (parliament) after the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary election after winning with more than 70% as an independent candidate in single-member districts number 150 (first-past-the-post wins a parliament seat) located in Vinnytsia Oblast. He did not enter any faction in parliament.
Mid-February 2013 Poroshenko hinted he would run for Mayor of Kiev in the 2013 Kiev mayoral election.
2014 presidential election.
Following the February 2014 “Maidan revolution” and the resulting removal of Viktor Yanukovych from the office of President of Ukraine, new Presidential Elections were scheduled to take place on 25 May 2014. In pre-election polls from March 2014 Poroshenko was the highest rated of all the prospective candidates, with one poll conducted by SOCIS giving him a rating of over 40%. On 29th of March 2014 he stated that he will run for the president of Ukraine May 25th; at the same time as Vitali Klitschko exited the presidential contest, choosing to support Poroshenko’s bid.