Google – AFP, Max Delany (AFP), 26 February 2014
The nominations for the new pro-Western cabinet are read out at
Independence square in Kiev on February 26, 2014 (AFP)
Kiev — Arseniy Yatsenyuk, a protest leader who was nominated Wednesday to head Ukraine's new interim government, is a pro-EU former foreign minister who took a hands-on role in street protests that rocked the country.
The bespectacled 39-year-old has been handed the tough responsibility of dragging the former Soviet republic back from the brink of collapse -- a task he himself branded "political suicide" earlier this week as Ukraine stands on the verge of default and faces separatist tensions.
While the former lawyer and banker's considerable economic experience in the past may prove a boon for the position, he lacks the image of a tough politician and his support among the more militant wing of the protesters is uncertain.
People listen to speeches on
Independence square in Kiev to hear the
line-up of the new pro-Western cabinet on
February 26, 2014 (AFP, Louisa
- Fighting talk, shrewd political operator -
The Ukrainian news weekly Focus said Yatsenyuk had tried to shed his image of an "intellectual banker" and had used the daily rallies as a form of campaign platform for the role of chief opposition leader.
He was also seen by some as a rival as much as an ally of fellow opposition leader and former world boxing champion Vitali Klitschko, who currently enjoys greater popularity among potential voters and said Tuesday he would run for president.
For all the fighting talk in front of the crowd, Yatsenyuk is also a skilled behind-the-scenes political operator who has held top posts under previous governments including economy minister and deputy governor of the central bank.
A former speaker of Ukraine's parliament, he was also a fourth-place runner-up in the 2010 presidential election won by Yanukovych -- in which he garnered just seven percent of the vote.
Yatsenyuk led negotiations for the former Soviet republic's membership of the World Trade Organisation and has shown particular attention to the country's fraught economic situation.
he turned down a compromise deal from Yanukovych that would have seen him take
up the post of prime minister, telling the then embattled president that
protesters were "finishing what they started".
Ukraine opposition leader Arseniy Yatsenyuk
addresses a press conference in Berlin on
February 17, 2014 (DPA/AFP/File, Maurizio
He was one of three opposition leaders who eventually signed a short-lived agreement with Yanukovych on Friday to stop the bloodshed -- a deal that stirred anger among many protesters and quickly collapsed when the president became a fugitive.
Since Yanukovych's ouster Yatsenyuk has been a mainstay in the parliament now dominated by those who backed the protests and on Tuesday was a major proponent of a vote to send the fugitive leader to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to answer for last week's bloodbath in Kiev.
That same day, he warned that those who accept to serve in the interim government "will save the country, but will also commit complete political suicide" due to the difficulties ahead.
- Political prodigy from opposition stronghold -
Yatsenyuk has called for European Union membership of Ukraine and has said he wants to root out deep-seated corruption in the country.
His appointment makes him one of Europe's youngest government chiefs, a post made more powerful since the parliament voted to return to a 2004 constitution that hands a raft of powers from the president to the premier.
However the position is just a temporary one until presidential elections scheduled for May 25.
Originally from Chernivtsi in western Ukraine, a major stronghold for the opposition, Yatsenyuk began his political career in 2001 as economy minister of the pro-Russia Crimean peninsula.
Poeple gather in Kiev's Independence
square to hear the line-up of the new
pro-Western cabinet on February 26,
2014 (AFP, Louisa Gouliamaki)
Then president Viktor Yushchenko made him foreign minister in 2007 and Yatsenyuk became a compromise figure when a personal conflict between Yushchenko and Tymoshenko began to spiral out of control.
Unusually for government officials in post-Soviet countries, Yatsenyuk travelled on regular passenger flights while he was minister.
Yatsenyuk and Tymoshenko themselves later had a bitter falling-out, although they have since reconciled and he became the parliamentary leader of the party she founded.
He was born on May 22, 1974, into a family of professors at Chernivtsi University.
While still at university in the 1990s he set up a student law firm and later worked at Aval bank in Kiev.
He is married and has two daughters.