Mykola Yanovych Azarov (Ukrainian: Мико́ла Я́нович Аза́ров, Mykola Yanovych Azarov; né Nikolai Yanovich Pakhlo; Russian: Никола́й Я́нович Пахло; born 17 December 1947) is a Ukrainian politician who has been the Prime Minister of Ukraine since 11 March 2010. He was the First Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister from 2002 to 2005 and again from 2006 to 2007. Azarov also served ex officio as an acting Prime Minister in the First Yanukovych Government when Viktor Yanukovych ran for president at first and then upon resignation of his government.
Following the victory of Viktor Yanukovych in the 2010 presidential election, Azarov succeeded Yanukovych as leader of the Party of Regions, and he was appointed as a fully fledged Prime Minister in March 2010.
Early life and career
Azarov was born in Kaluga in the Russian SFSR, Soviet Union, to half Estonian, half Russian Yan Robertovich Pakhlo and Yekaterina Kvasnikova as Nikolay Pakhlo. When he married his wife, Lyudmila Azarova, he took her name. Azarov attended the Moscow State University where he earned his doctorate in geology and mineralogy in 1971. He worked at the Tulaugol coal enterprise until 1976. Dr. Azarov moved to Donetsk on a permanent basis in 1984 to become deputy director of the Ukrainian State Geological Institute, that he went on to head. In 1984–1995 he was a deputy director and director of Ukraine's State Research and Design Institute of Mining Geology and Geomechanics.. From 1991 he is professor of Donetsk National Technical University.
Azarov served as the head of the budgetary committee of the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) in 1994–1997.
Head of State Tax Administration
Azarov was a long-term (1996–2002) head of the State Tax Administration. During this period tax inspections were used to limit the freedom of the press in Ukraine. On tapes made during the Cassette Scandal Azarov is heard speaking on recordings, secretly recorded in Kuchma's office by Kuchma's bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko, about using his position as the head of the tax authority to pressure officials to ensure Kuchma's reelection in 1999. Critics also stated that the recordings implicated Azarov in other corrupt schemes, including allegedly covering up graft at the state natural gas company Naftogaz, aiding the demise of the Slaviansk Bank (which was connected to Yulia Tymoshenko's natural gas company United Energy Systems of Ukraine) and illegal funding of Kuchma's 1999 election campaign. Azarov has vehemently refuted all these allegations. In 2002, he accused Slavyansk Bank president Borys Feldman of being behind the Cassette Scandal recordings.
First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister
In 2001 he became the head of the Party of Regions but resigned from the post in less than a year. In 2003 Azarov was elected chairman of the Party of Regions political council. In 2002, the European Choice parliamentary group nominated him for the Prime Minister's post, but he declined, standing aside for Victor Yanukovych, who assumed both the leadership of the Party of Regions and the Prime Minister's job. Azarov was appointed First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister in late November 2002, when the first Yanukovych Government took office. During the first Yanukovych Government governing the set of economic reforms was implemented including fiscal, tax, pensionary, regulatory reforms. During Azarov's first term as Finance Minister, the annual GDP growth was 9.6% in 2003 and 12.1% in 2004 (cf. 2.7% in 2005) in Ukraine, with capital investments of 31.3% and 28.0% (cf. 1.9% in 2005).
Azarov first served as acting Prime Minister from 7 December 2004 to 28 December 2004, after Yanukovych was put on vacation leave by President Kuchma in the midst of the Orange Revolution. After the runoff, Yanukovych attempted to resume his duties as prime minister, but effectively unable to do so, announced his resignation on 31 December 2004, and Azarov was named acting Prime Minister again. The Yanukovych Cabinet was officially dismissed on 5 January 2005. Azarov continued as acting Prime Minister until shortly after the inauguration of Viktor Yushchenko, when Yulia Tymoshenko was appointed Prime Minister on 24 January 2005. Azarov remained a strong political ally of Yanukovych, and again became a Member of Parliament for the Party of Regions after the 2006 Parliamentary elections. When Yanukovych became Prime Minister again on 4 August 2006, Azarov was elected the First Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister in the second Yanukovych Government.
Following his election as President of Ukraine, Yanukovych offered three candidates for Prime Minister on 21 February 2010: Sergei Tigipko, Our Ukraine faction member Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Azarov. Azarov headed Yanukovych's election campaign during the 2010 Presidential elections. The Verkhovna Rada appointed Azarov Prime Minister of Ukraine on 11 March 2010. Of the 343 lawmakers registered in the session hall, 242 voted in favor of the appointment. The next month he was elected head of the Party of Regions.
Cultural and political image
His Russian origin often leads to accusations by Ukrainian nationalists and Western media. Azarov speaks Ukrainian poorly. Nevertheless he assured his constituents in early March 2010 that his government will be speaking Ukrainian. In April 2011 he also stated: "I feel one hundred percent Ukrainian". In a 11 March 2010 article the UK daily The Guardian labelled him the most Russophile member of the new cabinet. In the same article an anonymous Ukrainian official noted "He's extremely boring and anti-populist". Former Party of Regions member Taras Chornovil has stated that influential Party of Regions member Rinat Akhmetov and the business wing of the Party of Regions are not positive about Azarov. Chornovil claims he heard Akhmetov's associates say about Azarov: "It is better to deal with Tymoshenko; cheaper cost". A November 2010 Razumkov Centre nationwide survey showed that only 13.2 percent of respondents fully support his government while 45 percent stated they didn’t.
Views on society
Azarov had the Prime Ministerial office blessed by a priest from Kiev Pechersk Lavra soon after he was elected Prime Minister in 2010. Azarov stated in March 2010 there were no female ministers in the Azarov Government because "Reforms do not fall into women's competence", while adding that he greatly respects women. After criticism from female politicians at home and abroad, Azarov explained that he meant he would not wish any woman, especially if she has children, to work more than 15 hours a day as a Ukrainian minister does. Ukrainian women's rights groups have filed different Court cases against him. According to Azarov, corruption is one of the biggest problems of Ukraine, "We must combat not just instances of corruption, but totally corrupt systems".
- Янукович припинив членство у Партії регіонів: Новини УНIАН
- "Yanukovych suspends his membership in Party of Regions, hands over party leadership to Azarov". Kyiv Post. 3 March 2010. http://www.kyivpost.com/news/politics/detail/60929/.
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- (Ukrainian) Микола Азаров став прем’єр-міністром, Gazeta.ua (12 March 2010)
- Mykola Azarov: Yanukovych's Right-Hand Man, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (12 March 2010)
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- "Azarov became Prime Minister". UNIAN. 11 March 2010. http://unian.net/eng/news/news-366879.html.
- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych forms coalition, BBC News, 11 March 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8561531.stm.
- "Azarov elected Regions Party head". Kyiv Post. 23 April 2010. http://www.kyivpost.com/news/politics/detail/64876/.
- BBC article, which focuses on his Russian origin
- BBC article, which focuses on his Russian origin
- "Azarov of Party of Regions swears speaking Ukrainian if appointed prime minister". Kyiv Post. 11 March 2010. http://www.kyivpost.com/news/politics/detail/61440/.
- Уроки куртульной речи от министра б'Азарова.
- Azarov: I feel one hundred percent Ukrainian, Kyiv Post (12 April 2011)
- Harding, Luke (11 March 2010). "Ukraine's new government puts final nail in coffin of the Orange Revolution". The Guardian (UK). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/11/ukraine-government-yanukovych-azarov.
- Yanukovych to slim ranks of government, Kyiv Post (16 December 2010)
- "Ukrainian Prime Minister Azarov had his office blessed". Interfax-Ukraine. 19 March 2010. http://www.interfax.com.ua/eng/main/34554/.
- Harding, Luke (24 March 2010). "Ukrainian women berate 'Neanderthal' PM for sexist remarks". The Guardian (UK). http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/mar/24/ukraine-mykola-azarov-women.
- "Women accuse Ukraine's Azarov of discrimination". Kyiv Post. 1 April 2010. http://www.kyivpost.com/news/nation/detail/62995/.
- "Azarov informs scientists about social and economic situation in Ukraine". Kyiv Post. 14 May 2010. http://www.kyivpost.com/news/politics/detail/66713/20/page/1/#comments.