Outside government, Poroshenko has been a prominent oligarch with a lucrative career in acquiring and building assets. His most recognized ownerships are Roshen, the large-scale confectionery company which has earned him the nickname of 'Chocolate King', and a TV channel 5 kanal, an all-news national TV broadcaster. Due to the scale of his business holdings in manufacturing, agriculture and financial industry, his political influence that included several stints at government prior to his presidency, and ownership of an influential mass-media outlet, Poroshenko has long been considered one of the prominent Ukrainian oligarchs even though not the most influential among them.
He was elected president on 25 May 2014, capturing more than 54% of the vote in the first round, thereby winning outright and avoiding a run-off.
Poroshenko was born in the city of Bolhrad, in Odessa Oblast, on 26 September 1965. He also spent his childhood and youth in Bendery (Moldavian SSR, now officially Moldova but under de facto control of the unrecognised breakaway state Transnistria). where his father Oleksiy was heading a machine building plant.
In his youth, Poroshenko practiced judo and sambo, and was Candidate for Master of Sport of the USSR. Despite good grades he was not awarded the normal gold medal at graduation, and on his report card he was given a "C" for his behavior. After getting into a fight with four Soviet Army cadets at the military commissariat, he was sent to army service in the distant Kazakh SSR.
In 1989, Poroshenko graduated, having started studying in 1982, with a degree in economics from the international relations and law department (subsequently the Institute of International Relations) at the Kiev State University. At this university he was friends with Mikheil Saakashvili who he in May 2015 would appoint as Governor of Odessa Oblast (region) and who is a former President of Georgia .
In 1984 Poroshenko married a medical student, Maryna Perevedentseva (born 1962). Their first son, Oleksiy, was born in 1985 (his three other children were born in 2000 and 2001).
From 1989 to 1992 Poroshenko was an assistant at the university's international economic relations department. While still a student, he founded a legal advisory firm mediating the negotiation of contracts in foreign trade, and then he undertook the negotiations himself, starting to supply cocoa beans to the Soviet chocolate industry in 1991. At the same time, he was deputy director of the 'Republic' Union of Small Businesses and Entrepreneurs, and the CEO "Exchange House Ukraine".
Poroshenko's brother, Mykhailo, older by eight years, died in a 1997 car accident under mysterious circumstances.
In 1993, Poroshenko, together with his father Oleksiy and colleagues from the Road Traffic Institute in Kiev, created the UkrPromInvest Ukrainian Industry and Investment Company, which specialised in confectionery (and later other agricultural processing industries) and the automotive industry. Poroshenko was director-general of the company from its founding until 1998, when in connection with his entry into parliament he handed the title over to his father, while retaining the title of honorary president.
Between 1996 and 1998, UkrPromInvest acquired control over several state-owned confectionery enterprises which were combined into the Roshen group in 1996, creating the largest confectionery manufacturing operation in Ukraine. His business success in the confectionery industry earned him the nickname "Chocolate King". Poroshenko's business empire also includes several car and bus plants, Kuznya na Rybalskomu shipyard, the 5 Kanal television channel, as well as other businesses in Ukraine.
Although not the most prominent in the list of his business holdings, the assets that drew much recent media attention, and often controversy, are the confectionery factory in Lipetsk, Russia, that became controversial due to the Russian military intervention in Ukraine (2014–present), the Sevastopol Marine Plant (Sevmorzavod) that has been confiscated after the 2014 Russian forcible annexation of Crimea and the media outlet 5 kanal, particularly because of Poroshenko's repeated refusal to sell an influential media asset following his accession to presidency.
According to Poroshenko (and Rothschild Wealth Management & Trust) since becoming President of Ukraine he has relinquished the management of his businesses, ultimately (in January 2016) to a blind trust.
In March 2012, Forbes placed him on the Forbes list of billionaires at 1,153rd place, with $1 billion. As of May 2015, Poroshenko's net worth was about $720 million (Bloomberg estimate), losing 25 percent profit ever since Russia's ban of Roshen products and the state of the Ukrainian economy.
According to the annual ranking of the richest people in Ukraine published by the Ukrainian journal Novoye Vremya and conducted jointly with Dragon Capital, a leading investment company in Ukraine, published in October 2015, president Poroshenko was found the only one from the top ten of the list whose asset value grew since the previous ranking. The estimate of his assets was set at 979 million US dollars, a 20% growth, and his ranking changed from 9th to 6th wealthiest person in Ukraine. The article noted that Poroshenko remained one of the only two European leaders who owned a business empire of such scale, with Silvio Berlusconi being the other one.
A total of 450 million euro is kept in an Amsterdam-based company registered in Cyprus, as a result of which his effective tax rate is 5% rather than the statutory tax rate of 18% in Ukraine. The company is likely to be worth much more, as the annual accounts published by the Dutch Chamber of Commerce only contain the book value of the shares, which is very likely to be lower than the market value.
A number of businesses were once part of the Ukrprominvest which Poroshenko headed in 1993–1998. The investment group was dissolved in April 2012. Poroshenko has stated that upon beginning his political activity he passed on his holdings to a trust fund.Bogdan group (Poroshenko sold his share in connection with the collapse of its production after the 2008 economic crisis in 2009)
5 Kanal television channel
Kuznya na Rybalskomu shipyard
Poroshenko first won a seat in the Verkhovna Rada (the Ukrainian Parliament) in 1998 for the 12th single-mandate constituency. He was initially a member of the United Social Democratic Party of Ukraine (SDPU), the party loyal to president Leonid Kuchma at the time. Poroshenko left SDPU(o) in 2000 to create an independent left-of-center faction, naming it Solidarity. In 2001 Poroshenko was instrumental in creating the Party of Regions, also loyal to Kuchma, but Solidarity never completed the merger.
In December 2001 Poroshenko broke ranks with Kuchma supporters to become campaign chief of Viktor Yushchenko's Our Ukraine Bloc opposition faction. After parliamentary elections in March 2002 in which Our Ukraine won the biggest share of the popular vote and Poroshenko won a seat in parliament, Poroshenko served as head of the parliamentary budget committee, where he was accused of "misplacing 47 million hryvnias" (USD$8.9 million). As a consequence of Poroshenko's Our Ukraine Bloc membership tax inspectors launched an attack on his business. Despite great difficulties, UkrPromInvest managed to survive until Yushchenko became President of Ukraine in 2005.
Poroshenko was considered a close confidant of Yushchenko, who is godfather to Poroshenko's daughters. Poroshenko was likely to have been the wealthiest oligarch among Yushchenko supporters, and was often named as one of the main financial backers of Our Ukraine and the Orange Revolution. After Yushchenko won the presidential elections in 2004, Poroshenko was appointed Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council.
In September 2005, highly publicized mutual allegations of corruption erupted between Poroshenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko involving the privatizations of state-owned firms. Poroshenko, for example, was accused of defending the interests of Viktor Pinchuk, who had acquired state firm Nikopol Ferroalloy for $80 million, independently valued at $1 billion. In response to the allegations, Yushchenko dismissed his entire cabinet of ministers, including Poroshenko and Tymoshenko. State prosecutors dismissed an abuse of power investigation against Poroshenko the following month, immediately after Yushchenko dismissed Svyatoslav Piskun, General Prosecutor of Ukraine. Piskun claimed that he was sacked because he refused to institute criminal proceedings against Tymoshenko and refused to drop proceedings against Poroshenko.
In the March 2006 parliamentary election Poroshenko was re-elected to the Ukrainian parliament with the support of Our Ukraine electoral bloc. He chaired the parliamentary Committee on Finance and Banking. Allegedly, since Poroshenko claimed the post of Chairman of the Ukrainian Parliament for himself, the Socialist Party of Ukraine chose to be part of the Alliance of National Unity because it was promised that their party leader, Oleksandr Moroz, would be elected chairman if the coalition were formed. This left Poroshenko's Our Ukraine and their ally Yulia Tymoshenko Bloc out of the Government.
Poroshenko did not run in the September 2007 parliamentary election. Poroshenko started heading the Council of Ukraine's National Bank in February 2007. Between 1999 and 2012 he was a board member of the National Bank of Ukraine.
Ukrainian President Yushchenko nominated Poroshenko for Foreign Minister on 7 October 2009. Poroshenko was appointed by the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's parliament) on 9 October 2009. On 12 October 2009, President Yushchenko re-appointed Poroshenko to the National Security and Defense Council. Poroshenko supported Ukrainian NATO-membership. However, he also stated NATO membership should not be a goal in itself. Although Poroshenko was dismissed as foreign minister on 11 March 2010, President Viktor Yanukovych expressed hope for further cooperation with him.
In late February 2012 Poroshenko was named as the new Minister of Trade and Economic Development in the Azarov Government; on 9 March 2012 President Yanukovych stated he wanted Poroshenko to work in the government in the post of economic development and trade minister. On 23 March 2012 Poroshenko was appointed economic development and trade minister of Ukraine by Yanukovych. The same month he stepped down as head of the Council of Ukraine's National Bank.
Poroshenko claims that he became Minister of Trade and Economic Development in order to help bring Ukraine closer to the EU and get Yulia Tymoshenko released from prison. After he took the post, tax inspectors launched an attack on his business.
Poroshenko returned to the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) after the 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary election after winning (with more than 70%) as an independent candidate in single-member district number 12 (first-past-the-post wins a parliamentary seat) located in Vinnytsia Oblast. He did not enter any faction in parliament and became member of the committee on European Integration. Poroshenko's father Oleksiy did intend to take part in the elections too in single-member district number 16 (also located in Vinnytsia Oblast), but withdrew his candidacy for health reasons. In mid-February 2013, Poroshenko hinted he would run for Mayor of Kiev in the 2013 Kiev mayoral election.
During the Euromaidan protests, between November 2013 and February 2014, Poroshenko actively supported the protest, including with financial support. This led to an upsurge of his popularity. He did not participate in negotiations between then President Yanukovych and the Euromaidan Maidan parliamentary opposition parties Batkivshchyna, Svoboda and UDAR.
In an interview with Lally Weymouth, Poroshenko said: "From the beginning, I was one of the organizers of the Maidan. My television channel — Channel 5 — played a tremendously important role. ... At that time, Channel 5 started to broadcast, there were just 2,000 people on the Maidan. But during the night, people went by foot — seven, eight, nine, 10 kilometers — understanding this is a fight for Ukrainian freedom and democracy. In four hours, almost 30,000 people were there." The BBC reported, "Mr Poroshenko owns 5 Kanal TV, the most popular news channel in Ukraine, which showed clear pro-opposition sympathies during the months of political crisis in Kiev."
Poroshenko refused to join the Yatsenyuk Government (although he introduced his colleague Volodymyr Groysman, the mayor of Vinnitsa, into it), and nor did he join any of the two newly created parliamentary factions Economic Development and Sovereign European Ukraine.
On 28 February, during the 2014 Crimean crisis, Poroshenko visited Simferopol, in Crimea, prior to its annexation by Russia; "We have to find a compromise," Poroshenko told a crowd gathered in front of the Crimean parliament, but his appeal was drowned by shouts of "Russia, Russia."
On 24 April 2014 Poroshenko visited Luhansk, at the time not controlled by Ukrainian authorities. Just like previously in Crimea he was met by a blockade of hundreds of pro-Russian locals at Luhansk Airport. Poroshenko later claimed: “When I traveled to Luhansk Oblast, my car was fired at and there was an attempt to take our entire group hostage.”
Following the 2014 Ukrainian revolution and the resulting removal of Viktor Yanukovych from the office of President of Ukraine, new presidential elections were scheduled to take place on 25 May 2014. In pre-election polls from March 2014, Poroshenko garnered the most support of all the prospective candidates, with one poll conducted by SOCIS giving him a rating of over 40%. On 29 March he stated that he would run for president; at the same time Vitali Klitschko left the presidential contest, choosing to support Poroshenko's bid.
On 2 April Poroshenko stated, "If I am elected, I will be honest and sell the Roshen Concern." He also said in early April that the level of popular support for the idea of Ukraine's joining NATO was too small to put on the agenda "so as not to ruin the country." He also vowed not to sell his 5 Kanal television channel. On 14 April, Poroshenko publicly endorsed the campaign of Jarosław Gowin's party Poland Together of neighbouring Poland in this year's elections to the European Parliament, thanking Gowin's party colleague Paweł Kowal for supporting Ukraine.
Poroshenko's election slogan was: "Live in a new way – Poroshenko!". On 29 May, the Central Election Commission of Ukraine announced that Poroshenko had won 25 May presidential election, with 54.7% of the votes.
During his visit in Berlin, Poroshenko stated that separatists "don't represent anybody. We have to restore law and order and sweep the terrorists off the street." He described as "fake" a planned 11 May Donbass status referendums.
When it became clear he had won the election on election day evening (on 25 May 2014) Poroshenko announced "My first presidential trip will be to Donbas", where armed pro-Russian rebels had declared the separatist republics Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic and control a large part of the region. Poroshenko also vowed to continue the military operations by the Ukrainian government forces to end the armed insurgency claiming "The anti-terrorist operation cannot and should not last two or three months. It should and will last hours." He compared the armed pro-Russian rebels to Somali pirates. Poroshenko also called for negotiations with Russia in the presence of international intermediaries. Russia responded by saying it did not need an intermediary in its bilateral relations with Ukraine. As president-elect Poroshenko promised to return Crimea, which was annexed by Russia in March 2014. He also vowed to hold new parliamentary elections in 2014.
Poroshenko was inaugurated in the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) on 7 June 2014. In his inaugural address he stressed that Ukraine would not give up Crimea and stressed the unity of Ukraine. He promised an amnesty "for those who do not have blood on their hands" to the separatist and pro-Russia insurgents of the 2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine and to the Ukrainian nationalist groups that oppose them, but added: "Talking to gangsters and killers is not our path". He also called for early regional elections in Eastern Ukraine. Poroshenko also stated that he would sign the economic part of the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement and that this was the first step towards full Ukrainian EU Membership. During the speech he stated he saw "Ukrainian as the only state language" but also spoke of the "guarantees [of] the unhindered development of Russian and all the other languages". Part of the speech was in Russian.
The inauguration was attended by about 50 foreign delegations, including US Vice President Joe Biden, President of Poland Bronisław Komorowski, President of Belarus Alexander Lukashenko, President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaitė, President of Switzerland and the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Didier Burkhalter, President of Germany Joachim Gauck, President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili, Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orbán, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy, the OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier, UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feldman, China's Minister of Culture Cai Wu and Ambassador of Russia to Ukraine Mikhail Zurabov Former Prime Minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko was also present. After the inauguration ceremony Tymoshenko said about Poroshenko "I think Ukraine has found a very powerful additional factor of stability".
At the time of his inauguration armed pro-Russian rebels, after a disputed referendums, considered to be illegitimate by the international community, had declared the separatist republics Donetsk People's Republic and Lugansk People's Republic and control a large part of Eastern Ukraine. Poroshenko (after his inauguration) launched a so-called "peace" plan envisaged for the recognition of the presidential elections in Ukraine by Russia, a cease-fire by the separatists (named "terrorists" by Poroshenko himself) and the establishment of humanitarian corridor for civilians ("who are not involved in the conflict"). Poroshenko warned that he had a "Plan B".
Poroshenko pledged revenge against separatists after 19 Ukrainian soldiers were killed in a rocket attack: "Militants will pay hundreds of their lives for each life of our servicemen. Not a single terrorist will avoid responsibility. Each of them will be punished".
First Lady of Ukraine Maryna Poroshenko met with Iryna Herashchenko, an envoy to the Peace plan for Eastern Ukraine to discuss possible assistance for people in the affected region.
In December 2014, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KhPG) condemned Poroshenko for granting Ukrainian citizenship to Belarusian neo-Nazi and Azov Battalion commander of reconnaissance Serhiy Korotkykh.
Poroshenko didn't agree to give the autonomous status for Donbass, saying, "Despite strong insistence, we didn't agree to any autonomous status. .. We didn't agree to any compromise on federalization either. There is no autonomy or federalization in the [Minsk] document."
In mid-June Poroshenko started the process of amending Ukraine's constitution to achieve Ukraine's administrative decentralization. According to Poroshenko (on 16 June 2014) this was "a key element of the peace plan". In his draft constitutional amendments of June 2014 proposed changing the administrative divisions of Ukraine, which should include regions (replacing the current oblasts), districts and "hromadas" (communities). In these amendments he also proposed that "Village, city, district and regional administrations will be able to determine the status of the Russian language and other national minority languages of Ukraine in accordance with the procedure established by the law and within the borders of their administrative and territorial units". He proposed that Ukrainian remained the only state language of Ukraine. Poroshenko further proposed to create the post of presidential representatives who would supervise the enforcement of the Ukrainian constitution and laws and the observation of human rights and freedoms in oblasts and raions/raions of cities. In case of an "emergency situation or martial law regime" they will "guide and organize" in the territories they are stationed in. Batkivshchyna, key coalition partner in the Yatsenyuk Government, came out against the plan.
He has repeatedly spoken out against federalization. and does not seek to increase his presidential powers.
1 July 2015 decentralization draft law gave local authorities the right to oversee how their tax revenues are spent. The draft law did not give an autonomous status to Donbass, as demanded by the pro-Russian rebels there, but gave the region partial self-rule for three years.
On 25 August 2014, Poroshenko called a snap election to the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's parliament), to be held 26 October 2014. According to him this was necessary "to purify the Rada of the mainstay of [former president] Viktor Yanukovych". These deputies, Poroshenko said, "clearly do not represent the people who elected them". Poroshenko also said that these Rada deputies were responsible for "the [January 2014] Dictatorship laws that took the lives of the Heavenly hundred". Poroshenko also stated that many of the (then) current MPs were "direct sponsors and accomplices or at least sympathizers of militants-separatists".
Poroshenko had pressed for the elections since his victory in the May 2014 presidential election.
During a 27 August 2014, the party congress of the party "Solidarity" adopted a new name: "Petro Poroshenko Bloc". "Solidarity" was Poroshenko's former party. Because in Ukraine the President is not allowed to be member of a party, Poroshenko became "Bloc of Petro Poroshenko" "Honorary Leader".
On 13 December 2014 Poroshenko stated that he did not want Ukraine to become a nuclear power again.
On 15 May 2015 Poroshenko signed a bill into law that started a six months period for the removal of communist monuments and the mandatory renaming of streets and other public places and settlements with a name related to Communism. According to Poroshenko this was "I did what I had to"; adding "Ukraine as a state has done its job, then historians should work, while the government should take care of the future". Poroshenko believes that the Nazi crimes are on a par with the communist crimes of the Soviet Union. The legislation (Poroshenko signed on 15 May 2015) also provides "public recognition to anyone who fought for Ukrainian independence in the 20th century", including the controversial Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) combatants led by Roman Shukhevych and Stepan Bandera.
Poroshenko said in an interview with Germany's Bild newspaper that "If I am elected, I'll wipe the slate clean and will sell the Roshen concern. As president of Ukraine, I will and want to only focus on the well-being of the nation."
On 23 March 2015 Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has accepted the resignation of billionaire Ihor Kolomoisky as governor of Dnipropetrovsk region over the control of oil companies. "There will be no more oligarchs in Ukraine," Poroshenko said adding that "oligarchs must pay more [taxes] that the middle class and more than small business." The president underscored that "the program of de-oligarchization will be put into life". Poroshenko promise that he will fight against the Ukrainian oligarchs.
Poroshenko has signed a decree to approve regulations on the Council of Public Control under the Anti-Corruption Bureau and regulations on setting up the mentioned council.
On 7 December 2015 Poroshenko had a meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden in Kiev which discussed the Ukrainian-American cooperation.
In June 2014 Poroshenko forbade any cooperation with Russia in the military sphere.
At the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on 26 June 2014 Poroshenko stated that bilateral relations with Russia cannot be normalized unless Russia undoes its unilateral annexation of Crimea and returns its control of Crimea to Ukraine.
On Poroshenko's June 2014 Peace plan for Eastern Ukraine Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov commented "it looks like an ultimatum".
On 26 August 2014 Poroshenko met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Minsk where Putin called on Ukraine not to escalate its offensive. Poroshenko responded by demanding Russia halt its supplying of arms to separatist fighters. He said his country wanted a political compromise and promised the interests of Russian-speaking people in eastern Ukraine would be considered.
The European Union (EU) and Ukraine signed the economic part of the Ukraine–European Union Association Agreement on 27 June 2014. Poroshenko stated that the day was "Ukraine's most historic day since independence in 1991", describing it as a "symbol of faith and unbreakable will". He saw the signing as the start of preparations for Ukrainian EU Membership.
At his speech at the opening session of the new parliament on 27 November 2014 Poroshenko stated "we've decided to return to the course of NATO integration" because "the nonalignment status of Ukraine proclaimed in 2010 couldn't guarantee our security and territorial integrity". The Ukrainian parliament on 23 December 2014 voted 303 to 8 to repeal a 2010 bill that had made Ukraine a non-aligned state in a bill submitted by Poroshenko. On 29 December 2014 Poroshenko vowed to hold a referendum on joining NATO. On 22 September 2015 Poroshenko claimed that "Russia's aggressive actions" proved need for the enlargement of NATO and that the Ukrainian referendum on joining NATO would be held after "every condition for the Ukrainian compliance with NATO membership criteria" was met by "reforming our country".
On 2 February 2017, in an interview with Funke Mediengruppe, Poroshenko announced he was planning a referendum on whether Ukraine should join NATO.
Poroshenko was criticized by Committee to Protect Journalists for signing a decree which banned 41 international journalists and bloggers from entering Ukraine for one year, being labeled as threats to national security. The list includes three BBC journalists, and two Spanish journalist currently missing in Syria, all of whom previously covered the Ukraine crisis.
Poroshenko set up an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands during the peak of the war in Donbass. Leaked documents from the Panama Papers show that Poroshenko registered the company, Prime Asset Partners Ltd, on 21 August 2014. Records in Cyprus show him as the firm's only shareholder. He said that he had done nothing wrong, and the legal firm, Avellum, overseeing the sale of Roshen, Poroshenko's confectionery company, said that "any allegations of tax evasion are groundless". The anti-corruption group Transparency International believes that the "creation of businesses while serving as president is a direct violation of the constitution".
On 26 July 2017, Renat Kuzmin, First Deputy Prosecutor, and former Deputy Head of the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine published a ruling by the Pecherskyi District Court (in Kiev) that orders the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) to investigate President Poroshenko for possible state treason under Article 111 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
Poroshenko has been married to Maryna since 1984. The couple have four children: Olexiy (born 1985), the twins Yevheniya and Oleksandra (born 2000) and Mykhaylo (born 2001). Olexiy was a representative in the regional parliament of Vinnytsia Oblast. In November 2014, he became People's Deputy of Ukraine. Maryna Poroshenko is a cardiologist, who does not take part in public life, apart from her participation in the activities of the Petro Poroshenko Charity Foundation. Poroshenko became a grandfather on the day of his presidential inauguration of 7 June 2014.
Poroshenko is a member of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Poroshenko has financed the restoration of its buildings and monasteries. In high-level meetings he is often seen with a crucifix.
Poroshenko speaks fluent Ukrainian, Russian, English and Romanian.
He was also nicknamed 'Chocolate King' because of his ownership of a large confectionery business. Poroshenko objected to labeling him as an oligarch stating that "Oligarchs are people who seek power in order to further enrich themselves. But I have long fought against bandits who are robbing our country and have destroyed free enterprise".
In 2016, The Chocolate King, by Tom Ward, was published about Poroshenko and the complicated challenges in dealing with the oligarchs, internal corruption, Vladimir Putin, and the U.S. presidential election. Ukraine : Order of Merit
Moldova : Order of the Republic
Poland : Order of the White Eagle
Spain : Order of Civil Merit
Ukraine : Medal of winner of Ukraine State Prize in Science and Technology