Petro Oleksiyovych Poroshenko was born on September 26, 1965, in Bolhard, Ukraine. Renowned as the “chocolate king” for owning the country’s biggest confectionery producer Roshen, the 53-year old billionaire, businessman and politician became the fifth President of Ukraine from 2014 to 2019. In this article, let’s witness Petro Poroshenko’s life, journey, background, and how he came to power, and his contribution to Ukraine’s political landscape.
Early Life and Business Career
Petro Poroshenko was born to Oleksij Poroshenko, an engineer and government official, and Yevguenia Serguéievna Grigorchuk, who was deemed to be an accountant and served as a professor in an accounting school. He attended Taras Shevchenko National University in Kyiv and took up law and international relations. In 1989, he graduated but remained in the university and finished international economics.
In the fall of the U.S.S.R., Poroshenko tried his luck by venturing into the business world. Not long enough, he became Ukprominvest Ukrainian Industry and Investment Company’s CEO, a holding company that deals with various industries. He also began supplying cocoa beans to the chocolate industry and founded Roshen in 1996.
UkrPromInvest then gained control over different confectionery businesses in various states, and integrated them in Roshen, making the business one of the most prominent candy and chocolate manufacturers in eastern Europe. His rapid success in the business earned the reputation as the “Chocolate King.” A true oligarch, he also owned vehicle factories, a shipyard, a television channel, and other businesses in the country.
Poroshenko’s political journey started in 1998 after he won a seat in the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) as the Vinnytsya. Initially, he was part of the Viktor Medvedchuk-led Social Social Democrats and served Pres. Leonid Kuchma’s government. In 2000, he left the party to establish a new faction Party of Ukraine’s Solidarity (PSU), and later on, became a key in the creation of the Party of Regions.
In 2001, Poroshenko broke ranks with Kuchma and joined ViktorYushchenko’s “Our Ukraine” party, and was appointed as the parliamentary budget committee’s head. Yushchenko won the presidential elections through the Orange Revolution and Poroshenko was assigned to be the national security secretary in 2005, finance committee head from 2006 to 2007, and foreign minister from 2009 to 2010. In 2010, the Orange Party experienced disagreements within the party and the power was snatched from them by the resurging Party of Regions.
Poroshenko again shifted his allegiance again in 2012, returning to the Party of Regions and becoming Pres. Viktor Yanukovych’s trade minister. However, in the same year, he returned to the Verkhovna Rada and co-chaired the European Integration Committee.
Ukrainian Revolution and Poroshenko’s Presidency
In November 2013, the Euromaidan movement happened after Yanukovych’s government decided to halt the signing of an association agreement with the EU. Three months later, the government security forces killed demonstrators, which resulted in the parliament’s vote to impeach Yanukovych who then escaped to Russia. During these times, Poroshenko actively and financially supported the protests, helping catapult him into popularity.
On May 25, 2014, Poroshenko won the snap Presidential elections, toppling his former ally Yuliya Tymoshenko. During his win, Russian was displaying their strong military presence despite Putin repudiating that his country will have any roles in the conflict and though it was apparent that the relationship of both countries was at a weary state.
After Poroshenko ordered an offensive that massively limited the area controlled pro-Russian rebels, the countries agreed to have a ceasefire in September. The following month, a parliamentary election was held and officials supporting Poroshenko’s pro-Western mandate emerged as the winners at the polls.
By the end of the year, the country had removed its non-aligned country status, a position it only took in 2010 due to Russia’s pressure. Afterward, Poroshenko promised to advance the country’s case towards NATO membership.
However, rebels attacked in January 2015, resulting in the death of hundreds of innocent individuals. Highlighting the need for a diplomatic approach, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French Pres. François Hollande attempted to bridge a better agreement. Their efforts fruited into a 12-point agreement between Poroshenko and Putin to end the fights.
During his campaign, Poroshenko also campaigned on reform and transparency. In all fairness, the country, indeed, reached considerable success in that aspect and in battling corruption in the public sector. However, his reputation was stained in April 2015 due to the leaked documents called the Panama Papers.
Initially, Poroshenko vowed to sell all his business once elected as President. Yet, the documents showed that he only transferred all his assets into an offshore company situated in the British Virgin Islands. Anti-corruption groups deemed that such an act is a violation of Ukraine’s constitution while the Ukrainian public showed their disgust of the government.
While Poroshenko’s rating was aided by the establishment of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, his approval rating plummeted due to the worsening living standards and the signs of government corruption. On April 21, 2019, Poroshenko lost to actor and TV personality Volodymyr Zelensky, with the former getting only 24% compared to the latter’s 73%. While Poroshenko conceded to Zelensky, he cited his victory as the onset of a period of ambiguity in the country and promised that the loss isn’t the ending of his career in politics.