Viktor Yanukovich has made a great comeback. Before these elections he set out his stall in style when he walked through a ceremonial guard of honour to collect his candidate’s card from the Electoral Commission. The leader of the Ukrainian “Party of Regions” was stigmatised as being too close to Moscow during the “Orange Revolution” in 2004, when he lost the elections to Viktor Yushchenko.
But he has retained popular support amongst voters in the east and Russian-speaking south of the country. He has also modified his stance during his campaign for the presidency.
“First of all, my aim is to establish an order in the country and to defeat poverty,” he said. “I also intend to win and my aim is to overcome poverty in Ukraine and to build a strong State. To achieve this we have a specific programme – Ukraine for the people. And we have a team which is able to implement this programme.”
He remains opposed to the idea of Ukraine joining NATO. In his view, Russia is the country’s natural partner. He is, however, open to the idea of moving closer to the EU - to the satisfaction of his supporters with big business interests.
Traditionally viewed as an authoritarian hardliner, Yanukovich has changed his tune during this campaign, underlining his commitment to democracy.
Born in 1950, and orphaned as a toddler, the new Ukrainian president has a chequered past. Convicted for various offences including robbery and assault, he is a devout Orthodox Christian and enjoys tennis and breeding pigeons.