Viktor Yanukovych

GENYA SAVILOV/AFP-GETTY

Like politicians everywhere, Ukraine's 54-year-old Prime Minister likes to invoke his humble origins, telling the media that "my main dream in life was to break out of poverty." What he often fails to mention in his Horatio Alger–style tale is that he spent almost four years in jail as a teenager for robbery and assault, though the charges were later reversed.

Genial but wooden tongued, more fluent in Russian than Ukrainian, Yanukovych is reminiscent of a Soviet-era party boss, an image aided by his almost 2 m, 109-kg frame. That style goes down well in his conservative home...

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