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Leonid Kravchuk, first president of independent Ukraine, dies at 88

Following a long illness, Leonid Kravchuk, the first President of Ukraine, who served between 1991 and 1994, died in Kyiv on May 10. He was one of the men who brought about the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

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Leonid Kravchuk was born on January 10, 1934, in Western Ukraine, at that time within Polish borders. In 1958, he joined the Communist Party, but did not involve himself in active politics and did not achieve prominence until soon before the collapse of the Soviet Union.

He briefly served as the Chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the Ukrainian SSR, and then its successor, Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s unicameral parliament, following the country’s 1991 declaration of independence. Kravchuck was then elected the first president of the country, and in December of that year he signed the Belovezh Accords, which dissolved the Soviet Union. Other signatories were the President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, and the President of Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich.

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He remained active in politics as an MP until 2006, initially as an independent, and then as a member of the Social Democratic Party. He maintained close ties with Ukraine’s oligarchs, such as Viktor Medvedchuk, who later became known as a personal friend of Putin and ran a pro-Russian political party in Ukraine.

Kravchuk signed the Lisbon Protocol in 1992, in which several former Soviet Republics, including Ukraine, but also Belarus and Kazakhstan, pledged to give up the nuclear arsenals they inherited from the Soviet Union. Ukraine finally disposed of its Soviet-inherited nuclear arsenal after signing the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in exchange for guarantees of territorial integrity, which were signed, among others, by Russia.

From July 2020 to February 2022, Kravchuk represented Ukraine at the Trilateral Contact Group, which attempted to find a diplomatic solution to the war in the Donbas.

Leonid Kravchuk died in Kyiv on May 10, following a prolonged illness.

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