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Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk.

Leonid Kravchuk, Independent Ukraine’s first president, dies

Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine’s first president after breaking away from the Soviet Union, has died at 88 Ukrainian officials announced on Wednesday.

Kravchuk may be most remembered for signing a 1994 agreement with the United States, Britain and Russia in which Ukraine agreed to give up its nuclear deterrent which was then shipped to Russia. The treaty was signed by then-President Bill Clinton and approved by the U.S. Senate. In exchange, the treaty required the United States and Britain to defend Ukraine militarily against any Russian invasion or other military operation.

The Obama administration in 2014, and the Biden administration this year, ignored the agreement allowing Russia to invade. The consequences are playing out in today’s headlines with half of Ukrainian citizens having fled their homes and tens of thousands of civilians killed while its cities are in ruins.

Kravchuk was remembered by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who said he was “a man who knew how to find wise words and to say them so that all Ukrainians would hear them.”

Kravchuk had been in poor health and underwent a heart operation last year. It is not known if the living conditions in Ukraine, where medicine, food, and fuel are in short supply, contributed to his death.

Kravchuk served as Communist Party boss of Ukraine in the last years of the Soviet empire, and eventually helped enginer the breakup of  the USSR. He went on to be elected president and served from 1991 through 1994.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov wrote on Twitter, “Thank you for the peaceful renewal of our Independence. We’re defending it now with weapons in our hands.”

Kravchuk’s death comes a week after that of the first president of post-Soviet Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich, who died aged 87. Belarus is now a puppet state of Russia and is the staging ground for Russia’s invasion from the north.

Since Shushkevich’s death, Kravchuk was the last survivor of the three leaders who signed the 1991 deal with the United States. Russian President Boris Yeltsin died in 2007 aged 76.

–Metro Voice and wire services