Former Belarusian leader who helped dissolve the Soviet Union dies aged 87

Stanislav Shushkevich, the first leader of independent Belarus who played a key role in the dissolution of the Soviet Union, died Wednesday at the age of 87.

Shushkevich’s wife Told journalists her husband died in the Belarusian capital of Minsk following complications from Covid-19. He was placed in intensive care last month.

“We hope that a state funeral will be organized, but no one has contacted us yet,” Irina Shushkevich told AFP.

As speaker of the parliament of Soviet Belarus, Shushkevich hosted Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk for secret talks at a government hunting lodge in Belovezha Forest in late 1991.

The trio reached an agreement behind Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s back and signed an agreement known as the Belovezha Accords which declared that “the USSR has ceased to exist”.

It was the final death knell for the Soviet Union and Gorbachev resigned from his now defunct post less than three weeks later.

The agreement also led to the creation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance later joined by other former Soviet republics.

A physicist with no political background, Shushkevich was persuaded to run for the first Congress of People’s Deputies of Belarus in 1989.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Shushkevich became the first leader of independent Belarus.

He was eventually replaced by former collective farm chairman Alexander Lukashenko when the office of the president was created in 1994. Lukashenko remains the Belarusian president to this day.

Shuchkevich was a frequent criticism of Lukashenko, who ruled the country with an authoritarian grip and orchestrated a sweeping crackdown on Belarusians who protested his disputed victory in the 2020 election.

Russia news

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