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BBC Monitoring research in English 24 Dec 07
BBC Monitoring Service, UK, Monday, December 24, 2007

Yuriy Yekhanurov became defence minister in December 2007, as his candidacy was approved by parliament along with other ministers of Yuliya Tymoshenko's new cabinet.

Yekhanurov was nominated to the cabinet by President Viktor Yushchenko, as the post of defence minister, along with foreign minister, belongs to the
presidential quota in the government.

Yekhanurov is one of the most experienced Ukrainian politicians. In the
mid-1990s he managed the start of Ukraine's privatization campaign as head of the State Property Fund. He served as prime minister in 2005-06, and he topped the list of the pro-Yushchenko bloc for the 2006 parliamentary election.

The choice of Yekhanurov for defence minister by Yushchenko was a surprise to many, as his predecessor Anatoliy Hrytsenko, who had served in this position since February 2005, was a successful minister, respected in the West and supported by Yushchenko.

Yekhanurov is viewed as a counterbalance in the cabinet to Prime Minister
Yuliya Tymoshenko, whose critic he has been ever since her first appointment
as prime minister in 2005.

In 2007, Yekhanurov also initially refused to back Tymoshenko for prime
minister, arguing that the promises she made ahead of the September 2007
parliamentary election were unrealistic. Yushchenko had to personally
persuade Yekhanurov to vote in favour of Tymoshenko in parliament when the
fate of her cabinet was decided on 18 December 2007.

Yuriy Yekhanurov, an ethnic Buryat, was born in August 1948 in a village in
Russia's north-eastern Yakutia Republic. Yekhanurov went to a secondary
school in Yakutia, but later moved to Ukraine. In 1967 he graduated from a
construction school in Kiev, and in 1973 from the local Institute of
People's Economy (now the Economic University).

In 1974, he became director of a construction materials factory in Kiev.
Yekhanurov climbed the career ladder in the construction industry up to the
post of deputy chairman of Kiev's main construction directorate in 1988.

As Ukraine gained independence in 1991, Yekhanurov moved to the Cabinet of
Ministers, where he headed an economic department. In 1992-93 he served as
deputy head of the Kiev city administration's economic department, then
returned to the Cabinet of Ministers as deputy economics minister. In
1994-97 Yekhanurov steered the early stage of Ukraine's privatization as
chairman of the State Property Fund.

In February 1997 he was appointed economics minister in the cabinet of Prime
Minister Pavlo Lazarenko. In July 1997, Yekhanurov became head of the state
committee for enterprise.

Yekhanurov was elected to parliament for the first time in March 1998. He
joined the cabinet of Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko in January 2000 as
first deputy prime minister. When Yushchenko was dismissed in May 2001, the
then president, Leonid Kuchma, employed Yekhanurov as first deputy head of
his administration. But he left the administration in November 2001 to work
on the election headquarters of Yushchenko's newly formed Our Ukraine
opposition bloc.

Yekhanurov was elected to parliament again in March 2002 from Our Ukraine's
list. Yushchenko employed Yekhanurov at his election headquarters for a
second time in summer 2004, this time for the presidential polls, which
Yushchenko won. On 1 April 2005 Yushchenko appointed Yekhanurov

governor of Dnipropetrovsk Region.

Yushchenko appointed Yekhanurov as prime minister to replace Tymoshenko in
September 2005. The economy grew under Yekhanurov, following a brief
stagnation period in the middle of 2005. It was also during his premiership
that Ukraine concluded the controversial January-February 2006 accords on
gas trade with Russia, under which the Swiss-registered company RosUkrEnergo
became the monopoly supplier of gas from Russia to Ukraine.

Yekhanurov had to step down on 4 August 2006, replaced by Viktor Yanukovych
from the camp rival to Yushchenko. As Yanukovych's party secured control
over the majority in parliament in the wake of the 2006 parliamentary
election, Yekhanurov was a member of parliament's standing committee for
science and education. He has been first deputy chairman of Yushchenko's Our
Ukraine-People's Union party since March 2007.

After the 30 September 2007 early parliamentary election, Yekhanurov
supported the idea of a grand coalition involving Yanukovych's party. He
also opposed Yuliya Tymoshenko return to the post of prime minister. The
majority of his party did not support him, and Yekhanurov had to back the
party line.

Yushchenko believes that Yekhanurov will speed up reform in the army.
Speaking shortly after his appointment, Yekhanurov said he will first of all
discuss the ministry's budget with his deputies and the top brass. He said
that he will focus on resolving socioeconomic problems in the army.
Yekhanurov also stressed the need to popularize the military profession.

Yekhanurov should oversee the Ukrainian army's transition to contract-based
service as opposed to conscription. His predecessor Hrytsenko had rejected
Tymoshenko's plan to do this in 2008. Yushchenko believes this should be
possible by 2010. Yekhanurov is married, with one son.