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. After weeks of Euromaidan protests, and clashes, during which civilians were killed, Mykola Azarov offered his letter of resignation on 28 January 2014. Since 3 July 2014 Azarov is in the international wanted list for alleged abuse of power. On 19 January 2015 Kiev District Court of Pechersk Raion issued an arrest warrant as a preventive measure to allow for extradition of Azarov from the Russian Federation.
Azarov was born in Kaluga on 17 December 1947 in the Russian SFSR, Soviet Union, to an Estonian father, Jaan Robertovich Pahlo, and a Russian mother, Yekaterina Pavlovna 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 1973. He worked at the Tulaugol coal enterprise until 1976. Azarov moved to Donetsk permanently 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. In 1991 he was hired as a professor at Donetsk National Technical University.
In 1994 Azarov was elected member of the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian parliament) for the first time, representing the Petroskiy electoral district, located in the city of Donetsk. In 1995–1997 he served as head of the parliament's Committee on Budgets, while also sitting on the Verkhovna Rada's presidium. In parliament, he belonged to an interregional group of MPs supporting then-President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma. In 1995, while carrying on as an MP, Azarov was appointed an adviser to the currency council of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine. In 1996 he became Chairman of the State Tax Administration of Ukraine.
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.
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 Viktor Yanukovych, who assumed both the leadership of the Party of Regions and the Prime Minister's job. Azarov was appointed First Vice 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 Vice Prime Minister and Finance Minister in the second Yanukovych Government.
Following his election as President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych offered three candidates for Prime Minister on 21 February 2010: Sergei Tigipko, Our Ukraine faction member Arseniy Yatsenyuk and Azarov. Azarov had 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. In 28 October 2012 parliamentary election he was (re)-elected into parliament heading the party list of Party of Regions. Following Azarov's resignation as Prime Minister on 3 December 2012 (after several cabinet members including Azirov were elected to parliament in the previous election, something which obliged them to give up their ministerial mandates) his cabinet stayed on as caretaker government from 3 December 2012. On 5 December President Yanukovych stated "Azarov has good chances of remaining prime minister, (but) a lot will depend on whom he brings to his team". On 9 December Yanukovych nominated him for a new term as Prime Minister. This nomination was approved by parliament on 13 December 2012. On 24 December 2012 the second Azarov Government was appointed by President Yanukovych.
Azarov resigned 28 January 2014, amid heavy riots and the Euromaidan protests. According to his cabinet, Azarov was quoted saying that "In order to create additional opportunities for socio-political compromise, for the sake of the peaceful settlement of the conflict, I have made a personal decision to ask the Ukrainian president to accept my resignation from the post of Ukrainian prime minister". Azarov flew to Austria to join family members in a private jet hours after quitting. As of 23 February 2014 Azarov is based in the Russian Federation. On 29 March 2014, during a party congress, Azarov was expelled from the Party of Regions.
On August 3, 2015, Azarov announced in Moscow the creation of a "Ukraine Salvation Committee," (Комитет спасения Украины) set up outside Ukraine, seeking to have "all citizens, political parties, labor union and social movements to unite and restore order in our home by joint efforts" and to change Ukraine's leadership. The Russian government says it has nothing to do with what one Russian media outlet calls "Ukraine's government in exile". The committee's chairman and its choice for President of Ukraine is Volodymyr Oliynyk. Azarov claimed he could not name all members of the committee because some lived in Ukraine and it would be dangerous to disclose their names.
As of 12 January 2015, Azarov has had an Interpol Red Notice issued, along with ex President Viktor Yanukovych and former Minister of Finance Yuriy Kolobov, on charges of 'Misappropriation, embezzlement or conversion of property by malversation, if committed in respect of an especially gross amount, or by an organized group.'
Since 3 July 2014 Azarov is in the international wanted list for abuse of power.
Russian prosecutors refuse to extradite Yanukovych to Ukraine and, according to Ukraine, falsely state that they have not received such a request from Ukraine.
Azarov's son Oleksiy Azarov was a constituency candidate in Sloviansk for Party of Regions during the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary election. He was elected into parliament.
In April 2014, Austrian authorities began an investigation of Oleksiy Azarov among several other Ukrainians close to the former government on money-laundering suspicions. Austrian banks reported suspicious capital flows earlier in 2014.
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 an 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.
On 13 December 2012, during the parliamentary discussion of Azarov's candidacy to the Prime Minister of Ukraine, People's Deputy of Ukraine Iryna Farion publicly asked for clarification on the reason of Azarov's inability to master the state language. On that the candidate to the Prime Minister of Ukraine replied that he agrees to improve his Ukrainian.
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".