Belavezha Agreement

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The agreement made Russia the successor state of the Soviet Union and entrusts it with full responsibility for the USSR`s debt and nuclear arsenal. While Shushkevich called the agreement a pragmatic response to urgent challenges, former President Kravchuk became more philosophical, calling it „the culmination of Ukraine`s long road to independence“ after a century in which 15 million Ukrainians had died under Soviet rule (Kravchuk spoke for the first half of his speech in Ukrainian, then slipped for the second into Russian). The agreement they signed was founded by the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of 11 of the 15 former Soviet republics. But his greatest achievement was the dissolution of the USSR after 70 years without large-scale violence, Shushkevich said. Western leaders feared that a disintegration of the Soviet Union would lead to a civil war in nuclear power. That morning, they met again and worked out the rest of the agreement. After the signing, Shushkevich called Gorbachev, while Yeltsin called the US president at the time, George HW Bush. Shushkevich said Gorbachev was clinging to him when he heard that Bush had been informed of the agreements. During the Belavezha talks, the seed of a large-scale agreement was planted when the then Russian Foreign Minister, Gennadi Burbulis, unexpectedly asked if others were ready to sign a declaration that „the USSR, as a geopolitical reality and the object of international law, is ending its existence.“ When the trio met, they realized they had a problem: they had no legal possibility of signing binding agreements without Gorbachev. Burbulis proposed a solution: a declaration that the Soviet Union no longer existed. The others agreed.

Then someone indicated that they represented three of the four republics that had signed the document on the founding of the Soviet Union in 1922 – and that the fourth, the Republic of Transcaucas, had been dissolved in 1936. This seemed to give a legal basis to their actions. Leaders agreed to create a new community of independent states (the word „Commonwealth“ was considered more neutral than „Union“ or „federation“). The preamble to the document states that „the USSR, the subject of international law and a geopolitical reality, no longer exists.“ Article 1 of the agreement read: „The high contracting parties form the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).“ The agreement expressed a desire to strengthen cooperation in the political, economic, humanitarian, cultural and other fields. The parties guaranteed their citizens equal rights and freedoms, regardless of nationality or other differences; the territorial integrity of the other and the inviolability of existing borders within the Commonwealth, as well as the opening of borders, the free movement of citizens and the transfer of information within the Commonwealth. Article 14 designates the city of Minsk as the official seat of the Commonwealth coordination bodies. A draft document was developed overnight and a 14-point declaration was adopted the next day. The agreement came into force on 12 December, after being ratified by the three parliaments with only a handful of votes in the opposition.

On 21 December, the three signatories of Belavezha met with the leaders of eight other Soviet republics in Alma-Ata Kazakhstan, and they all signed a protocol that joined the CIS. The United Nations acknowledged the document on 23 December. The Belovetsha Agreements (Russian: Belarusian: „Ukrainian:“ () are agreements that have virtually ceased to exist for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and established the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) in its place as a unit of succession.

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