Ukrainian politician, President of the country between 1994 and 2004, born in Chernigov, in 1938. Raised in a peasant family, he/she trained as a mechanical engineer and subsequently was a professor at the University of Dnepropetrovsk.
Industry of the old Soviet nomenklatura who came to power in the hands of the military industry linked to the former USSR, worked as a technical director of the Baikonur cosmodrome (Kazakhstan), starting point of Soviet space flights. From this position, Leonid Kuchma oversaw the release of 120 rockets carriers, circumstance that caused a thyroid condition that forced him to spend some time in a hospital in Kiev.
After receiving the Lenin Prize, Kuchma went on, in 1986, to manage the biggest factory of intercontinental missiles in the world, Yushmash, located in the city of Dnepropetrovsk, in the central region of Ukraine. In this position he/she remained until October 13, 1992, date that was proposed by President Kravchuk, as a candidate to Prime Minister of Ukraine. Kuchma replaced Vitold Fokin, who had resigned that month due to pressure from the nationalist opposition which accused him of not vigorously undertaken economic reforms.
From this new position, in 1993 he/she signed an agreement for the incorporation of Ukraine to an economic Union among many of the countries of the former Soviet Union, in which Russia would have an important role. However, disagreements with the President led him to submit his resignation as Prime Minister on September 9, 1993. His resignation was accepted by Parliament and replaced him with Yefim Zviaguelski, former Mayor of the city of Dontetsk. Shortly before, in March of that year, Leonid Kuchma was elected Deputy in the first parliamentary elections of the post-Soviet Ukraine.
Kuchma, who, as Prime Minister, also distanced himself from Kravchuk at the deterioration of the relations of Ukraine with Russia, priority for the development of the country, argued then, and now as a candidate for early presidential elections on June 26, 1994, the deterioration of Ukraine's economy, unemployment and industrial problems. Also in this call, he/she received the support of the leader of the Union of Directors Russian company, Arkadi Volski, who supported former Prime Minister as director of this agency in Ukraine.
Kuchma was elected President of Ukraine and took possession of his new position on July 19, 1994 in a solemn session of the legislature. Unlike his predecessor, he/she argued for a closer to Russia and the other republics of the defunct Soviet Union and issued a decree which assumed full control of the Cabinet of Ministers on 9 August. It came out in favour for an in-depth reform of the Ukrainian economy as well as undertake various privatization of State-controlled.
Decided, as President, to carry out economic reforms than his predecessor, Kravchuk, did not dare to undertake, on November 1, 1994 ordered the liberalization of prices, and the 12th of the same month ordered the privatization of land, as a priority task in the chapter on agricultural reforms.
Then the Ukrainian Government acceded, on December 5, to the Treaty of non-proliferation Nuclear (NPT), so state that had third largest arsenal in the world, after the United States and Russia, was resigning to maintain its status as an atomic power. He/She also proposed to Crimea, peninsula which was given to Ukraine by Nikita Jruschev in 1954 and based on the disputed Black Sea fleet, establish a relationship with the Center, similar to which Moscow had agreed with the Republic of Tatarstan.
On July 12, 1996 he/she signed the first Constitution for Ukraine and a year later signed the Charter of specific association between his country and NATO. In 1998 he/she joined a declaration in favour of the development of bilateral relations with Bulgaria, interrupted after the disintegration of the USSR and extended the agreement of economic cooperation with Russia until 2007. Leonid Kuchma attended on October 31, 1999 at the second presidential election since Ukraine became independent from the USSR, with a programme based on the deepening of the economic reform policies. In the first round, the President managed to renew its mandate with a wider than expected in polls triumph. He/She received 36.5% of the votes, compared to 22.2% achieved by the Communist leader Petró Simonenko, which returned to measure in the second round to not get any candidate on the absolute majority. On November 14, 1999 Kuchma was re-elected President of Ukraine after getting 56,05% of the vote over 37.5% of his opponent in the runoff election.
The popularity of the President began to fall sharply at the end of the year 2000 when the figure of Kuchma appeared directly linked to the disappearance of the journalist Georgui Gongadze, director of a daily electronic opposed the regime. Days later, authorities found a decapitated corpse and after practice DNA tests confirmed the identity of the missing person. The opposition, led by Alexandr Moroz, hastened to ask for the resignation of the President who, in turn, denied any involvement in the case and said to be the victim of a conspiracy against him. In the first months of 2001, the political tension increased and multiplied the mass protests against the regime for alleged cases of corruption and coercion of the freedom of expression in the country. The President responded to the accusations with the resignation of the two heads of the Ukrainian secret service but failed to quell the protests.
On 26 April 2001, Communist and centrist parliamentary groups, two political forces routinely faced, formed an unprecedented Alliance to get the fall of the reformist Government of Victor Yushchenko with its vote of no confidence. The dismissal of the Prime Minister increased still further the political crisis in the country, wrapped in recent months in a climate of instability that was aimed directly at the figure of the President. A month later, Kuchma got the backing of Parliament to its new candidate for Prime Minister, Anatoli Kinaj, although the Communist majority in the Chamber rejected the vote.
The parliamentary elections called for March 31, 2002, polls exit polls predicted a tight victory of the former head of Government and leader of the bloc our Ukraine (NU), Victor Yushchenko, with 21.2% of the vote, against 20.1% of Communists and 14.3% of the block pro-presidential for United Ukraine (PUU). However, the provisional count of the votes granted victory to allies of Kuchma, circumstance that Yushchenko rushed to qualify as fraudulent.
Recrudecida the political crisis, in the autumn of that same year, thousands of Ukrainians took repeatedly the streets of Kiev to ask the prosecution of the country's President on charges ranging from corruption, misappropriation of funds, complicity in the murder of Gongadze and alleged violations of the United Nations embargo on the export of arms to Iraq. In a further attempt to calm tensions, Kuchma dismissed the head of the Government Anatoli Kinaj in mid November and asked parliamentary support for the candidacy of Victor Yanukóvich, Governor of Donetsk.
The climate of political tension was extended during the year 2003 and the occasions in which Ukrainians took to the streets of the country to demand the resignation of the President were numerous. Thus the things, the presidential elections of 2004 guessed decisive for the democratic development of Ukraine. Victor Yanukóvich, head of the Government and pro-Russian candidate, and Victor Yushchenko, former Prime Minister and leader of the opposition, attended the polls October 31 Although none of the candidates succeeded in this first round the sufficient majority. In addition, international observers denounced irregularities in the process and the threat of civil revolt planned with emphasis on the streets of Kiev.
The extreme confrontation and well-founded suspicions of electoral fraud were repeated in the second round, held on November 21, 2004. Yanukovich proclaimed winner while polls were leaning by the victory of the opposition leader and thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Kiev to show their rejection of the official result. Two days later, and acclaimed by tens of thousands of supporters, Yushchenko went to the Parliament and proclaimed himself President. Finally, the allegations of fraud were attended by the Ukrainian Supreme Court that on 3 December annulled the results from irregular elections in November and ordered to repeat the second round of the presidential elections. The elections were finally held on 26 December and, as planned, the opponent Yushchenko became the successor of Kuchma as President of Ukraine.