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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Tracking Ukraine's Former Presidents During The War: Stepping Up Or Ducking Out?

Four of the five presidents who have led Ukraine since its independence from the Soviet Union are alive. As Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine continues, a look at what they have (or haven't) done.

Tracking Ukraine's Former Presidents During The War: Stepping Up Or Ducking Out?

Former Presidents of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko, Petro Poroshenko, and Leonid Kuchma take part in the farewell ceremony after the death of the first president of independent Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk.

Anna Steshenko


KYIV — Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the former leaders of Ukraine can be divided into three categories. Some have vanished from the political scene. Others appear to be involved in the fight intermittently. Lastly, some consistently provide aid to the Ukrainian armed forces and remain active on the international scene.

Before current President Volodymyr Zelensky, there were five presidents of Ukraine since the country gained independence in 1991.

The first president, Leonid Kravchuk, died on May 10, 2022. The second, Leonid Kuchma, was recently captured on video in Monaco. The third provides honey (yes, honey) to the front line. The fourth has sunk into Russian swamps, and the fifth is working to procure weapons and equipment for the army.

No matter how many grievances Ukrainians may have had against each leader who held office in recent years, all of them, except Viktor Yanukovych, successfully transitioned from power and left Ukraine as a functioning state for their successors.

Leonid Kuchma (in office from 1994 to 2005)

Leonid Kuchma is the only president of independent Ukraine who held office for two consecutive terms. Since 2014, he has represented Ukraine at negotiations that sought to end the conflict in Donbas, which Russian forces have occupied since 2014.

Journalists from the Ukrainian publication Ukrainska Pravda recently filmed Kuchma in the picturesque landscapes of the French Riviera at a dacha belonging to his son-in-law Viktor Pinchuk. The video shows the second president of Ukraine walking the streets of Monaco with hiking poles.

It is unclear if the former president is actively assisting Ukraine in between his walks. Representatives of Kuchma declined to answer Livy Bereg’s questions. Limited information is available on the website of Kuchma’s presidential fund "Ukraina." Kuchma's spokesperson, Darka Olifer, informed Ukrainska Pravda that the fund is active.

"We consistently keep the public informed about our activities,” she said. “We have been assisting the Armed Forces of Ukraine since 2014, but this work is not publicized."

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2015.


Viktor Yushchenko (in office from 2005 to 2010)

A Google search headline reads: “Viktor Yushchenko is sending honey to the front lines.” Additionally, the former president is constructing the future “Code of the Nation” museum, which he believes will help explain both Ukraine’s future victory and the reasons why tens of thousands of Ukrainians are currently standing up to the enemy instead of greeting them with flowers, as the Russians had planned.

The former president remains active in international affairs. In March, he visited the UK and Azerbaijan, and recently returned from Malta. In April, he attended a presentation of a U.S. House of Representatives resolution on what victory in Ukraine would look like.

"Naturally, my activities are aligned with the official agenda, which is primarily focused on Ukraine’s Euro-Atlantic integration and its relationship with the United States," Yushchenko said.

He told Livy Bereg that he has been assisting the Ukrainian army since 2014, but does not see the need to publicize his activities.

On his Facebook page, he noted his involvement in the "Long range reconnaissance and strike systems for the Territorial Defense Forces" project organized by the "Come Back Alive" Foundation.

Viktor Yanukovych (in office from 2010 to 2014)

Viktor Yanukovych is regarded as the embodiment of evil and a traitor. The last word on what Russia considers the legitimate Ukrainian president was heard in the first days of the full-scale invasion. Yanukovych was reportedly flown to Minsk to legitimize the occupation of Ukraine. According to media reports, he returned to Moscow on March 7, the 15th day of the invasion, which was interpreted as a sign of Russia’s failure to capture Kyiv. The current whereabouts of the 73-year-old traitor should be a matter of concern for national and international justice.

Fifth President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, his wife Maryna Poroshenko and brother Stepan Barna during a memorial service for Ukrainian servicemen.

Kirill Chubotin/ZUMA

Petro Poroshenko (in office from 2014 to 2019)

Petro Poroshenko is in possession of the most substantial resources among the former presidents. When questioned by Livy Bereg about the amount spent on supporting Ukraine's war effort, he provided a specific figure, stating that he allocated 2 billion hryvnias (equivalent to over $54 million).

"These funds come from our family's personal funds and our enterprises. Along with the funds raised by the NGO 'Sprava Hromad,' our total expenses for the Armed Forces of Ukraine have reached 2.5 billion hryvnias ($68 million USD)," Poroshenko said.

He listed a wide array of equipment and machinery provided to the front. This includes over 100 all-wheel-drive pickups, 11 Italian "MLS SHIELD" armored vehicles for the Air Assault Forces, over 350 "Leyland DAF" trucks, 14 “Spartan” armored personnel carriers and two "Oshkosh" tank transporter tractor units.

"Many projects, however, cannot be disclosed at the moment due to the threat to people's lives," Poroshenko said.

He added his political faction participated in the creation of the territorial defense battalion from the early days of the war. This battalion played a crucial role in facilitating the safe evacuation of approximately 20,000 residents from Irpin and Bucha amid heavy shelling.

Regarding his cooperation with the current government, Petro Poroshenko said, "On the day of the invasion, Feb. 24, 2022, I had a constructive conversation with Zelensky. We agreed that from that point on, it would be a clean slate, tabula rasa: I am no longer the leader of the opposition, and you are not my adversary. We have one common enemy, and that is Putin."

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Science Of Designing A Sanctions Model That Really Hurts Moscow

On paper, the scale of sanctions against Russia following its invasion of Ukraine is unprecedented. But opinion on the impact of sanctions remains divided in the absence of a reliable scientific foundation. A new study by Bank of Canada offers a way out.

Photo of people walking past a currency exchange rate board in Moscow on July 20.

People walking past a currency exchange rate board in Moscow on July 20.

Ekaterina Mereminskaya


The world has never seen sanctions like those imposed against Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine. There have been targeted sanctions, of course, or sanctions against rogue countries like North Korea with wide support from the international community. But never in history has there been such a large-scale sanctions regime against one of the world’s biggest and most important economies.

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Here's the thing though: these sanctions were introduced in a hurry because the West needed to respond to the war decisively. No one calculated anything, they relied on generalizations and holistic visions, they were “groping in a dark room,” as Elina Rybakova, senior researcher at the Brussels think tank Bruegel, put it.

As a result, debates around the effectiveness of sanctions and how best to use them to influence Russia continue to do the rounds.

Supporters of sanctions have a clear and unified message: we must stop Russia from being able to continue this war. We must deprive them of the goods and technologies necessary for the production of weapons and military equipment, and prevent Russians from living normal lives.

Opponents argue that the sanctions backfire. They insist that Russia is a large enough economy, highly integrated into the energy market and international supply chains, and therefore has enough resilience to withstand restrictions. Those who impose sanctions will be the ones to lose markets and suppliers. They will face increased energy prices and countless other problems. Russia will be able to replace lost relationships with new and even stronger ties with other states.

Economists at the Bank of Canada have attempted to resolve this debate and figure out who is hit hardest by sanctions. They pieced together a model featuring three parties: a country imposing sanctions, a country against which they were imposed, and a third independent country.

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