Fokin, Vitold

Fokin, Vitold [Фокін, Вітольд], b 25 October 1932 in Novomykolaivka, Zaporizhia oblast. Soviet Ukrainian Communist Party official and first prime minister of independent Ukraine. A mining engineer, he completed a candidate’s degree in Moscow in 1970. Beginning in 1954, he worked his way to the top through various positions in coal mining operations in the Donbas. A Communist Party member since 1957. In 1971, he was co-opted into government work. Starting as a department head, he ultimately became, under the patronage of Volodymyr Shcherbytsky, head (1989–90) of the State Planning Committee of the Ukrainian SSR. In the latter position he also served as a deputy premier ex officio. When Vitalii Masol was ousted from the premiership in October 1990 following the so-called Revolution on Granite, Fokin replaced him promising to introduce a market economy. As head of government, however, his main aim was to coordinate Ukraine’s economic policies with those of the Russian Federation and Belarus. In December 1991, he along with president Leonid Kravchuk signed the agreement creating the Commonwealth of Independent States and terminating the USSR. His major accomplishment was introducing the ‘coupon’ as a quasi-currency and rationing system which saved Ukraine’s economy from collapse. In September 1992, he resigned the premiership over what he regarded as the premature introduction of the hryvnia currency which entailed Ukraine’s departure from the Russian ruble zone. He was elected once to the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR as a deputy from a Kyiv constituency in the general elections of 1991, following a term (1989–91) as a people’s deputy in the last USSR parliament. From July 1990 he was also a member of the Central Committees of both the Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) and Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). In 1993 he secured a position at the Institute of World Economics and International Relations, and thereafter accumulated various honours and awards including servicing as president of the International Fund for Humanitarian and Economic Ties Between Ukraine and the Russian Federation. In 2020, following Leonid Kuchma’s resignation as head of the Ukrainian delegation to the Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) negotiating a settlement of the war in the Donbas and his being replaced by Leonid Kravchuk, Fokin was appointed First Deputy Head on 18 August 2020. On 30 September 2020, however, a day after having publicly expressed the view that there was no evidence of war between the Russian Federation and Ukraine, he was dismissed by President Volodymyr Zelensky and returned into retirement.

Bohdan Harasymiw

[This article was updated in 2020.]

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