Ukraine’s Yulia Tymoshenko, convicted of abuse of office in resolving a gas dispute, has had her share of accusations of shady dealing on the path from self-made businesswoman to politics. She has grappled in the courts and behind the scenes with others of Ukraine’s oligarchs. She became one herself in the rough and tumble that came with independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Her studies included cybernetics. She graduated an engineer-economist.
Rising to Deputy Prime Minister for fuel and energy, in 2001 Tymoshenko was arrested on what she said were false charges of gas smuggling, brought by powerful interests who were threatened by her anti-corruption reform work. She was cleared.
Later that year, she and ousted Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko moved to build a broad opposition and depose the incumbent President Leonid Kuchma. The protest movement became known as the Orange Revolution.
Yushchenko won the presidency in 2004, after fighting fraud with massive popular support. Yet Ukraine’s political re-positioning with Russian power and Western powers swiftly produced conflicts in the post‐Revolution coalition.
Although Tymoshenko had become Prime Minister, this lasted just eight months. She and Viktor Yushchenko had a falling out. After two years of sustained political jockeying among the blocs — both their parties had been central to the Orange Revolution — she and Yushchenko had repaired their rift.
By the end of 2007 she was back in the premier’s job. With 2008 came new stresses: Russia and Georgia’s war over South Ossetia; she and Yushchenko took different positions; though she had criticised Vladimir Putin’s rule in Russia, here she was less critical than Yushchenko.
More economically crucial was the dispute over Russian gas transiting Ukraine. In 2009 Tymoshenko negotiated a resolution with Putin, and the serious disruption of gas supplies to European Union customers was resolved. This solution, however, was held against her, and was eventually to lead to her conviction on charges she abused her office.