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Arseniy Yatsenyuk: Ukraine`s unlikely firebrand

Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was confirmed in his post as Ukraine`s premier on Thursday, is a technocrat turned protest leader who took the reins of government at a moment of historic upheaval in the ex-Soviet nation. 



Kiev: Arseniy Yatsenyuk, who was confirmed in his post as Ukraine`s premier on Thursday, is a technocrat turned protest leader who took the reins of government at a moment of historic upheaval in the ex-Soviet nation. 

The bespectacled pro-Western former foreign minister has steered the country through months of turmoil after first taking the position following the ouster of Kremlin-backed leader Viktor Yanukovych in February, helping to cement a historic pact with Europe and seal key financial aid.

But he also watched on in horror as Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea and a bloody pro-Moscow insurgency consumed the east of the country.

The 40-year-old always knew that this was going to be a tough job. He himself branded the task "political suicide" because dragging the former Communist republic from the brink of collapse would mean pushing through wrenching austerity measures.

The former lawyer and banker`s considerable economic experience proved a boon for the position as he took on the task of negotiating a $27 billion (22 billion euro) loan from the International Monetary Fund, European Union and World Bank to keep the country afloat.

Although he did not have the image of a tough politician, he has become known for his vitriolic condemnations of Moscow and he stood up to Russia as it cut off vital gas supplies to the country over a bitter price dispute.

Following a crushing victory for pro-Western politicians at parliamentary polls in October, he now heads a five-party coalition dominated by his own People`s Front party and President Petro Poroshenko`s bloc, with the hopes of the nation riding on how well the two men can work together. Yatsenyuk has grown into his role since rising to prominence as one of the main protest leaders on Kiev`s iconic Independence Square, shedding his intellectual image with stormy speeches from the podium.

For all his fighting talk to the crowd, the protege of ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko is also a skilled behind-the-scenes political operator who has held top posts under previous governments including economy minister and central bank deputy governor.

A former speaker of Ukraine`s parliament, he was a fourth-place runner-up in the 2010 presidential election won by Yanukovych, garnering just seven percent of the vote.

Yatsenyuk led negotiations for the former Soviet republic`s membership of the World Trade Organisation and had pledged to help root out Ukraine`s endemic corruption.

Yatsenyuk has been seen as a steady pair of hands to help guide Ukraine through the tumultuous period after Yanukovych`s rule collapsed in chaos following the killing of some 100 protesters in Kiev. When he was made premier, Yatsenyuk was one of Europe`s youngest government chiefs, a post made more powerful since parliament voted to return to a 2004 constitution that hands a raft of powers from the president to lawmakers.

Originally from Chernivtsi in western Ukraine, Yatsenyuk began his political career in 2001 as economy minister of the pro-Russia Crimean peninsula.

Following the "Orange Revolution" in 2004, he began pushing a more pro-Western agenda and became a close ally of Tymoshenko, the prime minister from 2007 to 2010 who was was jailed under Yanukovych for abuse of power.

Yatsenyuk served as foreign minister under another president, Viktor Yushchenko, in 2007 and became a compromise figure when a personal conflict between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko began to spiral out of control.

Unusually for government officials in post-Soviet countries, Yatsenyuk travelled on regular passenger flights while he was minister. He also speaks fluent English.

Yatsenyuk and Tymoshenko themselves later had a bitter falling-out, although they later reconciled and he became the parliamentary leader of the party she founded.

He was born on May 22, 1974, into a family of professors.

While still at university in the 1990s he set up a student law firm and later worked at a bank in Kiev.

He is married and has two daughters.

From Zee News

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