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Friday, 27 June 2014



He's a bil­lion­aire, an old pal of Putin's, and owner of Roshen, the world's 18th biggest con­fec­tionery busi­ness. But does Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine's new pres­i­dent, have what it takes to smooth over con­flicts with Rus­sia and sweet-talk the EU?
Ukraine is going through a par­tic­u­larly rough patch. 2013 ended with protests and riots about for­mer pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovich's mis­man­age­ment of Ukraine's del­i­cate re­la­tion­ships with both Rus­sia and the Eu­ro­pean Union. Since then, Yanukovich has been ousted, and things have got­ten steadily worse, with eco­nomic ten­sions in­creas­ing, the an­nex­ing of Crimea and con­flict on an in­creas­ingly large scale. In a coun­try with an av­er­age salary of just £142 a month, fi­nan­cial ties with its neigh­bour­ing pow­er­houses of Rus­sia and the EU are of the ut­most im­por­tance. Petro Poroshenko, who pre­vi­ously served as the sec­ond min­is­ter of trade and eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, was sworn in as pres­i­dent on the sev­enth of June, amid great hopes for the fu­ture of the coun­try. Hav­ing sworn to put an end to the fight­ing and mend ties with both zones, Poroshenko has found him­self at an im­passe – his cease­fire went up in smoke, and the sit­u­a­tion is be­gin­ning to look as if it's not as under con­trol as he would have liked.
June 27th will bring Poroshenko's sign­ing of an as­so­ci­a­tion agree­ment with the EU. But just how is this busi­ness­man-cum-politi­cian set to keep every­body sweet while mak­ing sure he has a fin­ger in all the pies?


De­mo­c­ra­t­i­cally elected, Poroshenko sur­prised the west by gain­ing clear-cut pop­u­lar­ity so soon after riots ousted an­other rich, well-con­nected politi­cian from gov­ern­ment. With the eco­nomic cli­mate pre­sent­ing prob­lems to your Ukrain­ian every­man, Poroshenko, with his$1.3 bil­lion em­pire and ver­i­ta­ble man­sion just out­side of Kiev, may not seem the ideal choice. How­ever, the elec­torate is not to be pre­dicted, and his land­slide vic­tory was seen as a true po­ten­tial cat­a­lyst for change.

His ties with Rus­sia are com­plex. Happy to ac­cept the con­tin­ued use of the Russ­ian lan­guage in the east, Poroshenko has al­ways re­mained clear in his re­fusal to en­gage with sep­a­ratists. How­ever, he made it clear back in 2009, when he was work­ing as for­eign min­is­ter, that he thought the way for­ward for Ukraine was as a part of NATO. Strangely, this was some­thing he left out of his pres­i­den­tial man­i­festo.
Is it ver­sa­til­ity that has led to so much of Poroshenko's suc­cess? In pol­i­tics, he has cer­tainly learnt how to jug­gle: in 2000, he founded the Party of Re­gions, through which Yanukovich rose to glory. After only a year, he was a lead­ing sup­porter of Yushchenko (the pres­i­dent of Ukraine from2005-2010)'s Our Ukraine party. Hav­ing also served as for­eign min­is­ter will surely also have paved the way for man­ag­ing the cat-and-mouse game Ukraine must play with the rest of the world.


His suc­cess can be at­trib­uted in part to his own­ing a TV sta­tion, to which he is reg­u­larly in­vited for in­ter­views. Not dis­sim­i­lar to the TV de­bates that have worked so suc­cess­fully in the UK to af­firm politi­cians' self-brand­ing, this may be part of the se­cret of Poroshenko's sur­pris­ing pop­u­lar­ity.
Ivan Lo­zowy, an in­de­pen­dent pol­icy an­a­lyst, stated be­fore the elec­tions: “There is noth­ing that he's re­ally done in the short or medium term that even sticks out a lit­tle bit.” Pay­ing to ar­ti­fi­cially boost rank­ings in polls is al­legedly com­mon prac­tice in Ukraine, and Lo­zowy thinks Poroshenko must have used this strat­egy, as he was so un­heard of be­fore the polls.
Per­haps it is only the res­i­dents of Vin­nyt­sia who un­der­stand Poroshenko's true ap­peal. His two con­fec­tionery fac­to­ries in this city have pro­vided over 5000 jobs for lo­cals, all paid at a higher rate than the norm. Add to this Poroshenko's gift to the city: the biggest danc­ing water show in Eu­rope, con­sid­ered one of the most im­pres­sive in the world and equipped with danc­ing lasers and in­built music. In a speech he de­liv­ered there, he claimed that under his pres­i­dency, "What we've man­aged in Vin­nyt­sia, we'll do in the en­tire coun­try.” An im­pres­sive claim, given the high-qual­ity in­fra­struc­ture and clean­li­ness for which the city is renowned.
But Poroshenko's pre­vi­ous suc­cess – both po­lit­i­cal and com­mer­cial – must surely be weigh­ing on his mind at this point. When 40% of his own in­come comes from Rus­sia, his po­si­tion is be­com­ing more pre­car­i­ous, fi­nan­cially. This has, how­ever, gar­nered him some pub­lic sym­pa­thy – when the trade war with Rus­sia forced an em­bargo on Roshen con­fec­tionery, Poroshenko's busi­ness suf­fered.
With his sights con­tin­u­ally low­er­ing since his elec­tion, it is in­creas­ingly un­clear as to where Ukraine's fu­ture lies. One thing is for sure, Ukraine's fu­ture is now in­trin­si­cally linked to this charis­matic enigma of a politi­cian'via Blog this'