Stanislav Shushkevich, the first leader of independent Belarus and one of the signatories to the agreements that formally dissolved the Soviet Union, has died at the age of 87.
His wife Irina told Agence France-Presse that Shushkevich died on Tuesday in the capital, Minsk. He was hospitalized in intensive care after contracting COVID-19 last month.
The country voted to secede from the Soviet Union in September 1991, a month after a failed coup to oust the then Soviet president, when the former electrical engineer was serving as interim speaker of the Supreme Soviet, or parliament, which It was then known as Belorussia. Mikhail Gorbachev from power. Shushkevich was elected permanent chairman of the Supreme Soviet on 18 September.
About three months later, on 8 December, Shushkevich met with then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin and then-President Leonid Kravchuk at a resort in western Belarus and co-signed the Belvezha Agreement, which marked the Soviet Union’s existence after nearly 70 years. terminated. Commonwealth of Independent States. Gorbachev later resigned as the last leader of the USSR more than two weeks later on Christmas Day.
In an interview with VOA in 2016, Shushkevich dismissed Gorbachev’s allegation that the men signed the deal because they were power-hungry as “absolute nonsense”.
Shushkevich served as head of state until January 1994, when he was removed from a vote of confidence by then-chairman of the Parliamentary Anti-Corruption Committee Alexander Lukashenko following allegations of corruption. Several months later, Shushkevich came fourth in Belarus’ first presidential election behind Lukashenko, who won the second round in a landslide.
Shushkevich became a strong critic of Lukashenko and his autocratic regime, which has been in power since 1994.
In an interview with VOA in 2016, Shushkevich said that the Belvezha Agreement averted a civil war in the Soviet Union, similar to the demise of Yugoslavia. He also said that Russian President Vladimir Putin wants to restore the old Russian Empire instead of the Soviet Empire.
“He wants to make Russia dominate the lands and the countries it used to dominate,” Shushkevich said.
Some information about this report has been received from Reuters and Agence France-Presse.