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.
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.
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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