Profiles in Kleptocracy: Viktor Yanukovych

Profiles in Kleptocracy: Viktor Yanukovych

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December 13, 2016

In 2010 he became president, handily beating his adversary. While initially a controversial candidate, his campaign manager helped shape his image from a thug to a legitimate political contender. Calls that he was a puppet of Russia were decried, despite Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s open support. He lacked polished oratory skills, but insisted that he was committed to improving the lives of his countrymen. The people wanted change, and they chose him to make it happen. The former president warned that the country would be ashamed of the election results, but “that is also democracy.”

Upon taking office, the new president quickly consolidated power. Media, parliament, even the courts were under his control. His rival candidate was charged with corruption and abuse of power and imprisoned a year after he took office. His children became quite influential during his presidency. But after failing to sign on to a multilateral partnership as he promised during the campaign, protests broke out. More than 100 people were killed in February 2014 when uniformed snipers shot at protestors, leading to his ouster and eventual flight from the country.

With Viktor Yanukovych’s ouster, hundreds of Ukrainians descended upon his private estate. There they found a zoo, a replica of a Spanish galleon ship, and documents thrown into a river in an attempt to destroy them. The documents showed that Yanukovych had paid at least US $2 billion in bribes while he was president, bribes that went to judges and senior government officials. He also allegedly paid bribes to election commissioners for helping Yanukovych’s party win in the parliamentary elections in 2012. Yanukovych also used his office to enrich himself and his cronies, with up to US $100 billion estimated to have been stolen from Ukraine.

Yanukovych fled to Russia, but he hasn’t escaped scrutiny. Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s Office has been investigating Yanukovych and others from his regime since March 2014, and proceedings against Yanukovych may begin in absentia. And the United States is investigating ties between Yanukovych and American companies, including the company headed by Paul Manafort—the former campaign manager for Yanukovych and one-time campaign chairman for President-elect Donald Trump. 

FOR MORE ON THIS TOPIC, PLEASE SEE THE FOLLOWING RESOURCES:

Ukraine’s fallen leader Viktor Yanukovych ‘paid bribes of $2 billion’ – or $1.4 million for every day he was president
Yanukovych’s Assets
Viktor Yanukovych boasted of Ukraine corruption, says Mikheil Saakashvili
25 Tales Of Corruption From Documents Found At The Abandoned Palace Of Ukraine’s Ousted President
Profile: Ukraine’s ousted President Viktor Yanukovych
Ukraine election: Viktor Yanukovych claims victory
How Trump’s campaign chief got a strongman elected president of Ukraine

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