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Yulia Tymoshenko

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Yulia Tymoshenko (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)

Who is she?:

The former prime minister of Ukraine and co-leader of the 2004-05 Orange Revolution that resulted in Viktor Yushchenko winning for president over Viktor Yanukovych after a corrupt election was thrown out. Tymoshenko lost the presidential election to Yanukovych in 2010, and claimed that the results were tainted. Now targeted by the current Ukrainian government, Tymoshenko is being held behind bars on politically motivated charges.

Birthdate:

Nov. 27, 1960, in Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, which was then part of the Soviet Union. Her father, a Latvian, left her mother when Yulia was 3 years old. She would graduate from high school and go to to get a degree in economics-cybernetics from Dnipropetrovsk State University.

Personal life:

Yulia married Oleksandr Tymoshenko, the son of a mid-level Communist Party official whom she met when he phoned a wrong number, in 1979. They had a daughter, Yevhenia, in 1980. When pressure increased on his wife from her political enemies, Oleksandr, a businessman, sought and was granted asylum in the Czech Republic. He has rarely appeared with Yulia in public and doesn't publicly comment on his wife's political work. Yevhenia graduated from the London School of Economics and is married to English rock musician Sam Carr. She is actively campaigning for her mother's release.

Political affiliation:

Leader of the All-Ukrainian Union "Fatherland" party, founded in 1999 after Tymoshenko and others left the scandal-ridden Hromada party. The centrist party operates on a social democracy platform. The party is part of the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, a populist umbrella coalition in place since 2001.

Career:

After graduating in 1984, Tymoshenko began to work as an engineer-economist at the Dnipropetrovsk machine-building plant. From 1989 to 1991, she was a commercial director of the Dnipropetrovsk video rental company Terminal. From 1991, she was a CEO of the gasoline corporation Ukrainskiy Benzin. In 1995, in a Ukraine no longer part of the Soviet Bloc, Tymoshenko became president of United Energy Systems of Ukraine. In 1996, she was first elected to the Verkhovna Rada, or parliament, winning a record 92.3 percent of the vote in her Kirovograd region. She became the head of budget strategic committee in 1998, developing a new taxation system and entitlement reform. In 1999, she was appointed vice prime minister of energy issues, which included her quest to root out corruption in the fuel and energy industries of the country. She would be fired by then President Leonid Kuchma in 2001, arrested the next month on trumped-up charges, and released shortly thereafter. Tymoshenko then was a passionate leader of the opposition against Kuchma, founding the Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc, surviving a car crash that some pegged as an assassination attempt in 2002, and leading the Orange Revolution with Yushchenko. She would be prime minister under Yushchenko, but later dismissed in the face of conflict in the coalition. She was elected prime minister again in 2007, and served until 2010, the year that Yanukovych assumed the presidency and corruption charges were brought against her.

Future:

Tymoshenko was convicted of abuse of power in 2011 and sentenced to prison, which she compared to Stalin's Great Terror. The numerous criminal investigations against her and failed appeal sparked international outcry rooted in concern about the rule of law and democracy in Ukraine. In April-May 2012 she went on a hunger strike to protest her imprisonment and the state of affairs in Ukraine. Tymoshenko has reportedly been beaten in prison and new charges being brought against her could keep her behind bars until 2023. EU states have been protesting the imprisonment and calling on Yanukovych to release Tymoshenko. "If the regime of Yanukovych did this to a former prime minister, imagine what it can do to each one of you," her daughter has pleaded with Ukrainians.

Quote:

“I believe God sometimes gives chances to some people. And I believe God gave me the chance to explain to people what is important and I am trying to use this.”
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