Kuchma, Leonid Danylovych (lĭŭnyētˈ dənyēˈləvĭch kŏchˈmä) [key], 1938–, Ukrainian politician, president of Ukraine (1994–2005). Formerly the manager of the Soviet Union's largest missile factory, he was a member of the Ukrainian Communist party's central committee (1981–91). Elected (1991) to Ukraine's supreme soviet, he served (1992–93) as prime minister after Ukrainian independence. In 1994, he defeated the incumbent, Leonid Kravchuk, to win the presidency. Kuchma initiated some free-market reforms in his economically struggling nation and was successful at gaining Western support and funds for Ukraine, but the country suffered from a declining economy dominated by huge state-run industries. He was reelected in 1999, but he later was implicated in the Sept., 2000, disappearance and death of an opposition journalist, which led to an erosion of parliamentary and public support. In the 2004 elections opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko defeated Kuchma's hand-picked successor, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. In 2011 Kuchma was charged with abuse of office in relation to the journalist's death, but the charges were later dismissed for procedural reasons.
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