The Soviet death blow was struck in a hunting lodge 30 years ago


Moscow (AP) — The fate of a vast country was balanced when the leaders of the three Slavic republics of the Soviet Union met in a secluded hunting lodge on December 8, 1991.With their pen strokes, they gave the Soviet Union a death blow, causing a shock wave that was still echoing thirty years later. In the tension between Russia and Ukraine..

The agreement they signed was signed at Viscri’s Dacha in the Bella Beza Forest near the Polish border, proclaiming that “the Soviet Union will no longer exist as an object of international law and as a geopolitical reality.” It also created the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of the former Soviet Republic that still exists but has little meaning.

Two weeks later, eight other Soviet republics joined the alliance, effectively terminating the authority of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who resigned on December 25, 1991, and lowered the hammer and mallet flags over the Kremlin.

As Belarus was called at the time, the head of the Republic of Belarus, Stanislav Schshkevic, spoke of proudly signing the agreement. He said the agreement between Russia’s Boris Yeltsin and Ukraine’s Leonid Kravchuk is a “masterpiece of diplomacy.”

“The great powers, the nuclear superpowers, split into independent nations that could work closely with each other as they wished, and no drop of blood was shed,” Shushke said in an interview with the Associated Press. Bitch (86) added.

But that blood will spill later — in multiple conflicts across the former Soviet Republic, once yoked under the strict control of Moscow.

One of the most deadly It started in eastern Ukraine shortly after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Russian-backed separatists fought Ukrainian troops, killing more than 14,000 people.

The latest Russian military buildup at the Ukrainian border has fueled Western concerns about aggression. During a video conference on TuesdayUS President Joe Biden told Russian President Vladimir Putin that if Moscow launches an attack on its neighbors, it will face economic-threatening sanctions.

In his memoirs, Gorbachev expressed his bitter feelings about the 1991 agreement. The agreement destined for a desperate attempt to prevent the collapse of the Soviet Union by trying to negotiate a new “Union Treaty” between the republics, which began a few months ago.

“What they hurriedly and secretly went to in Belavesi was like a plan to kill an injured but still alive by dismantling,” Gorbachev, now 90, writes.

But for Shushkevic, “It wasn’t a tragedy at all!”

“We decided to close the country’s prisons, and nothing felt repentant,” he added.

Shushkevic argued that he and the other leaders did not make sense for Gorbachev’s efforts to keep the remaining 12 Soviet republics together. The Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia have already left, and the failure of the August coup against Gorbachev by hardliners of the Communist Party eroded his authority and urged other republics to seek independence.

“All versions of the Union Treaty have been summarized in the restoration of the old method, or the proposal of a new structure in which Gorbachev is still the boss,” said Schshkevic.

Shushkevich, Yeltsin and Kravchuk arrived at the Viskuli Lodge near the Polish border on December 7. Participants later explained that the atmosphere was tense. If Gorbachev wanted, he was arrested for treason.

Shushkevic said Eduard Sirkovsky, the head of the KGB in the hunting lodge, assured him that he was not threatened. But a few years later, hardliner Sirkovsky regretted not ordering his arrest.

In an interview with AP, Schshkevic said he did not expect Gorbachev, whose power was rapidly declining, to try to arrest them.

“Gorbachev’s timidity makes me think there was no such threat, at least I didn’t feel it,” he said.

Gorbachev said he decided to oppose the split loyalty between the Soviet army and law enforcement, fearing it would cause bloodshed in unstable conditions.

“If I decided to rely on some armed structure, it would inevitably lead to a fierce political conflict with bloodshed,” he wrote.

Gorbachev accused his archival Yeltsin of leading the collapse of the Soviet Union to take over the Kremlin. Yeltsin, who died in 2007 at the age of 76, defended his actions by saying that the Soviet Union was ruined. He said the Belovezh Accords are the only way to avoid conflict between the central government and an independent republic.

Some participants in the historic conference pointed out that Ukraine’s Kraftuk played a central role in the demise of the Soviet Union.

Ukraine declared sovereignty after the August coup that dramatically undermined Gorbachev’s authority. A week before the Belovezh Accords, Kraftuk was elected President of Ukraine, and his independence from Moscow was overwhelmingly approved.

At the meeting at the hunting lodge, Kraftuk took a strong position and rejected any improved version of the Soviet Union.

“Krafchuk focused on Ukraine’s independence,” said Shushkevic. “He was elected President on December 1, 1991, proud of Ukraine’s declaration of independence in a referendum.”

Yeltsin’s top aide, Sergey Shakhray, also said the Ukrainian vote played a decisive role.

“Ukraine’s independence referendum to deny the 1922 treaty on the creation of the Soviet Union and the subsequent Supreme Soviet decision of Ukraine brought political and legal completion to the process of collapse,” says Shakhrai. I did. “Yeltsin and Schshkevic first tried to persuade Kraftuk to maintain some form of union, but after the referendum he didn’t want to hear the word.”

After signing the contract, Yeltsin and Krafchuk asked Schshkevic to talk to Gorbachev about the contract. Yeltsin also called Soviet Defense Minister Yefgeny Shaposnikov and later US President George HW Bush to discourage him from using any force if Gorbachev ordered him to do so. bottom.

Shushkevic recalled that Gorbachev was cheerful on the news of the death of the Soviet Union.

“Gorbachev told me in a mentor’s tone:” Do you know what the international community says? “Shshkevic said. Yeltsin was talking to Bush about it, and I said he (Bush) was reacting positively. “

While they focused on leaving Gorbachev’s seat, the three leaders set aside the controversy between them, but those rifts reappeared later.

Putin, who described the collapse of the Soviet Union as “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century,” constantly claims that Ukraine unfairly inherited the historic part of Russia at the end of the Soviet Union.

When Ukraine’s Kremlin-friendly president was expelled from power by protests in 2014, Russia responded by annexing Crimea and throwing support behind the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

In the recent Russian military buildup reported by Washington and Kiev, Putin asked Biden to guarantee that NATO’s military alliance would never expand to include Ukraine, which it had long sought to join. .. Americans and their NATO allies said the request was non-starter.

“Modern Ukraine is entirely a product of the Soviet era,” Putin said in an article published in July. “We are well aware that it was shaped in historic Russian lands — a significant portion — it is clear that Russia has been virtually deprived.”


Karmanau reported from Kiev, Ukraine.