The death of Leonid Kravchuk, the first president of independence

He knew the price of freedom and wanted peace from the bottom of his heart for Ukraine. We will do it, we will win.” Volodymyr Zelensky praised the “wisdom” of Leonid Kravchuk, who died Tuesday at the age of 88 in the midst of the Russian invasion. It was he who was one of the gravediggers of the USSR, who, as the first president of independent Ukraine, returned Also to Moscow is the nuclear arsenal inherited from the Soviet Union, the third in the world.

The Ukrainian president responded, speaking of the person who “defined World War II the world and occupation.”

Political sense, but popular discontent

The gray-haired man and his smirk, Leonid Kravchuk, was known for his political acumen, which, however, did not save him from popular indignation. In August 1991, the leader of the then Ukrainian SSR within a few days succeeded in persuading the Communist majority in Parliament to declare the independence of Ukraine.

A few months later, he was easily elected in the first round as president of independent Ukraine, playing the compromise card between communists and nationalists and on this occasion earning the nickname “Cunning Fox”.

Then, on December 8, 1991, Leonid Kravchuk initialed with his counterparts from Soviet Russia and Belarus, Boris Yeltsin and Stanislav Chuchkevich, a treaty regulating the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the signing of the Death Note of the Soviet Empire.

Born in 1934 to a peasant family in the Rivne region, then in the Polish lands, Leonid Kravchuk had until that time patiently risen to the top of the Soviet hierarchy, thanks to his long career as a bureaucrat. After graduating from a special Communist Party school, he spent thirty years in the party’s propaganda department.

missed opportunity

However, the victory of Leonid Kuchma in the Ukrainian presidential elections, which is closely connected with the communist regime, is considered by many to be a missed opportunity for Ukraine. This, in particular, to follow the Baltic states or Poland on the path of European integration and economic development.

During his tenure, from 1992 to 1994, the inflation rate in Ukraine exceeded 1000%, corruption scandals spread, dozens of banks went bankrupt, which caused a sharp drop in the standard of living in this former Soviet republic considered one of the most privileged. .

A symbol of this era, the two-wheeled shopping bag in which Ukrainians brought their goods to market in an effort to make ends meet would earn the nickname “kravtchoutchka”.

At the same time, independent Ukraine finds itself under pressure from Moscow and Washington. Fearing a possible catastrophe, the two powers forced Kyiv to surrender its nuclear weapons inherited from the Soviet Union, in exchange for security guarantees from the West.

The Presidents of the United States, Russia and Ukraine Bill Clinton, Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravchuk signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty on January 19, 1994 in Moscow. -AFP

The decision hangs over Ukraine

Dozens of ballistic missiles and strategic bombers have returned to Moscow. While the decision seemed harmless for a long time, the decision came back to the fore in 2014 after the annexation of Crimea and the outbreak of war between Kyiv and pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow, and some observers saw it as a huge mistake.

Since then, Leonid Kravchuk’s popularity has declined. In 1994, a political crisis forced him to call an early presidential election, which he lost to his former Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma, who is considered pro-Russian.

And then the elected deputy Leonid Kravchuk will continue his political career without much success until 2006, when he loses his term in the Verkhovna Rada.

He will briefly return to the political scene in 2020, accepting President Volodymyr Zelensky’s offer to become one of Ukraine’s negotiators in talks with Russia on settling the conflict in the east of the country.

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