Leonid Danilovich Kuchma — the second president of Ukraine (from 1994 to 2005), political and state leader, scholar.
Childhood, family and education
The second Ukrainian leader was born on August, 9 in 1938 in Chaykino village, which is in Chernihiv region (UkrSSR). According to some (unconfirmed) facts, the real surname of Leonid Danilovich is Kuchman-Goldstein. The father, Daniel Prokofievich, was a forester, and the mother, Praskovya Trofimovna, was a collective farmer. In addition to Leonid, parents raised two more children — Alexander and Vera. Having reached the age of majority, they worked on the mine. The brother was a driller there, and the sister was a driver of a freight locomotive.
Brother and sister died early: Alexander died of cancer when he was 55. Vera died of an apoplexy in her 48.
Leonid’s father, Daniel Prokofyevich Kuchma, went to battlefront at the very beginning of the Second World War participating in operations on the river Volkhov. After getting a frostbite, he got pneumonia and died on 7th Fabruary in 1942 in a military hospital in the village of Novoselitsy (Novgorod region, UkrSSR). His widow raised three children alone. The family survived the occupation and famine.
Leonid studied in the secondary school at village named Kostobobriv. Studying was easy for him. Especially, he liked the literature and the exact sciences.
After graduating from school in 1955, Leonid prepared to enter the Faculty of Physics and Technology at Dnipropetrovsk University. He chose the specialty of a mechanical engineer. Initially, the young man dreamed of being a teacher, but communication with other university entrants pushed him to change his intentions. He was intrigued by the information about the preparation of specialized specialists for the rocket and space industry. This decision was also made due to the high scholarships that were paid to the students of the faculty. Thus, first-year students received 450 rubles, and 600 during the final year. And it was important for Leonid, who was extremely limited in funds.
Despite the large study loads, it was easy for him to study. He was always active and felt good in the students environment. Leonid was often the center of attention, he played the guitar and sang well. That time he learned to play preference.
Some semesters he went to virgin lands. It was the place where his organizational skills were shown. For his courage to extinguish a fire in the steppe, he was awarded a medal.
After graduating from the university in 1960, a young distribution engineer was sent to the Southern Machine-Building Plant, the largest enterprise in the world at that time, which produced rocket and space technology.
He was an excellent specialist, so he was able to show his talents and abilities almost at the very beginning of his professional activity. Due to his high qualifications and excellent abilities, Kuchma was on a special account, and soon he became an employee of Special Design Bureau No. 586. Advanced missile systems, which then became the main asset of the strategic forces, were being created there.
Six years later, Kuchma went to Baikonur. Here and at the Plesetsk cosmodrome he managed the launches of the Cyclone-2 test program.
Here Leonid Danilovich was the head of the Komsomol organization, in 1975 he became a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine. In 1976, Kuchma became a secretary of the party committee of the machine-building plant Yuzhmash. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine delegated him to the XXVII and XXVIII CPSU Congresses.
In 1982, Kuchma became the first deputy chief designer of the defense enterprise.
1986-1992 Leonid Kuchma was a successful engineer, Candidate of Technical Sciences, who had received the Lenin Prize for a number of discoveries in the development of launch vehicles production. In that period he was the head of the Yuzhmash association. In addition to the release of the world’s most powerful rocket special equipment (including the famous Satan rocket, which had the ability to overcome the missile defense system and thereby terrified the United States), Kuchma initiated the development of promising wind generators, as well as microwave ovens. This production of “Yuzhmash” has become very popular.
Leonid Danilovich participated in the development programs of ballistic missiles, efficient engines for lunar rovers of the Block E system, etc.
In 1991, he offered of the Academy of Technical Sciences of Ukraine foundation, which became a member of the International Profile Academy later.
The political career of Leonid Danilovich began in 1990 with the election of him as people’s deputy of the Ukrainian Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the first Ukrainian convocation. Kuchma was one of the Declaration of Independence of Ukraine supporters. In 1991, he entered the election headquarters of Igor Yukhnovsky, a presidential candidate.
From 1992 to 1993, the “red director” was the head of the Ukrainian government. Then he headed the Union of Industrialists, and became a people’s deputy of the Verkhovna Rada. In 1994, Leonid Kuchma became the successor to the first president of Independent Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, and in 1999 he re-occupied the presidency.
The Internal policy
The state of the Ukrainian economy at his time was not well: inflation was 400%, GDP fell by 20%. The dependence of the Ukrainian economy on the Russian one was at 80-percent-level. At the initiative of President Kuchma, a financial reform was carried out, which resulted in the emergence of a national currency, the hryvnia. Mostly due to his efforts and personal control, the banking sector work was adjusted. During his first presidential term, privatization has emerged. In addition, agrarian and land reforms were launched.
The results of the first presidential term were impressive: it was managed to eliminate all the arrears in the payment of salaries and pensions, to increase the gold and foreign exchange reserves of Ukraine, and to partially repay a huge debt to the IMF. In 1996, the Constitution was adopted. In 2000, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant was finally shut down.
President Kuchma actively conducted diplomatic negotiations with Russia on issues of concessional energy supplies to the population of Ukraine. Thanks to the internal policy of the new president, the world community took a fresh look at Ukraine, began to consider it as a country with an established market economy.
In 1999, the second term of Leonid Kuchma’s presidency began. Together with his team, he developed political and administrative reforms. The European integration and advantages of open market principles were chosen as a priority direction. As a scientist and advanced engineer in the past, Kuchma actively supported the science and space technology development.
In 1995, the first national satellite, Sich-1, was launched. Also, Ukrainian equipment participated in the joint launch of rockets, which was carried out from the Sea Launch international oceanic cosmodrome. The year 1997 was marked by the flight of the Ukrainian cosmonaut Leonid Kadenyuk as a member of the crew on the ‘Columbia’ shuttle. In many ways, Leonid Kuchma’s efforts in a difficult time made Ukraine achieve the status of a space country. In the late 1990s, within the framework of the international cooperation programme, he supplied military equipment to Pakistan and Iran.
The Foreign policy
President Kuchma’s foreign policy was diverse: he managed to maintain partnerships with Russia and declare his readiness for business cooperation with NATO. Kuchma tried to oppose Ukrainian union with Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova, in contrast to the unconditional leader of the CIS. These countries became a part of the alternative organization called GUAM.
During Kuchma’s tenure as a head of Ukraine, Pope John Paul II visited Kiev. In addition, the current US President Bill Clinton accepted the invitation of Leonid Danilovich. His visit to Ukraine took place in May, 1995. Ukraine was on the side of the government of Macedonia in the internal military conflict of the early 2000s, which went against the views of NATO countries and the European Union. In 2003, Ukrainian peacekeepers were sent to Iraq.
During the presidency of Leonid Kuchma, a number of states (Russia, USA, Great Britain, France, China) signed a memorandum guaranteeing Ukrainian security in exchange for the non-nuclear status of Ukraine. Relationships with the West were actively developing, important economic reforms were carried out, including the privatization of state-owned enterprises. A mechanism to receive the right to share lands that were collectively owned was created for citizens, etc. The result of this policy was a significant reduction in inflation.
Like many prominent government figures, political scandals did not bypass Kuchma. In particular, the case of Grigory Gongadze’s death, in which the Ukrainian president was accused, received a large public repercussions. There were a number of corruption scandals that mentioned the names of many oligarchs.
President Kuchma retired with a life-long pension, commensurate with the salary of the state head. He can also use the services of personal protection and state staff, official cars and government dacha in the elite Koncha Zaspa area.What comes to personal family status Leonid Kuchma of the 2007, experts told about a number of $ 1.5 billion.
Yanukovych administration that replaced Kuchma’s in 2011, filed a lawsuit to the prosecutor’s office to file a criminal case against him. Ex-president was accused of Gongadze case. The basis was the audio recordings of conversations that Kuchma allegedly led with Yuri Kravchenko, who headed the Interior Ministry, and Vladimir Lytvyn, the head of the presidential administration. These materials were presented by Presidential Guard Nikolay Melnichenko. However, the investigation was terminated on the basis that the presented evidence of the crime was obtained illegally.
After graduation, as an employee of the Yuzhmash design bureau, Leonid Danilovich Kuchma met Lyudmila Nikolaevna Talalaeva, an engineer at the same field. She was an adopted daughter of the deputy chief engineer of this enterprise Gennady Tumanov. Lyudmila was 2 years younger than Leonid. A couple got married.
In 1970, Liudmila gave birth to a daughter, Elena (in Ukrainian language her name sounds like Olena), who graduated from the Dnipro State University Economics Faculty in the early 90s and was one of the initiators of the “Anti-AIDS” movement. Elena Kuchma founded the StarLightMedia media group, which included 6 national TV channels. In 1990, she married Igor Franchuk, the son of the former Prime Minister of the Crimean Autonomous Republic, a former deputy and the head of Chernomorneftegaz. Elena changed her surname to Franchuk.
In 1991, the couple had a son, Roman. Then their family union fell apart. The second time, Elena got married to an oligarch and maecenas of art Victor Pinchuk. They had a daughter, Ekaterina (in 2003), and Veronika (2011).
The curious fact is that having become the wife of Pinchuk, Elena did not change her surname: she explained this by the desire to be in solidarity with her firstborn Roman.
Today, the Ukrainian ex-president is still involved in the political life of the country. So, in June 2017, he made a speech at the opening of the international forum “Dawn of Europe: the historical pattern of civilized progress”, which was organized in Kiev. Leonid Danilovich shocked the audience with statements about the greed of the European Union, about the hypocrisy of the United States, about the absence of statehood and the economy in the country.
The politician urged the government to stop panhandle for money from the West, and to focus on the development possibilities of Ukraine’s internal potential, to return the previous level of development of science, technology, aircraft manufacturing and metallurgy.
In the conflict settlement connecting Donbas, Kuchma prioritizes the Minsk agreements.
Leonid Danilovich is in favor of enlightenment, protection of cultural and spiritual values, support of talented youth. He is the founder of the fund to provide free assistance to people in need.
News from the public life of the former President of Ukraine can be found on his official website.