Ukraine, Russia sign interim bilateral pact

by Chrystyna Lapychak
Kiev Press Bureau

KIEV - In an overwhelming vote that stunned the majority of the people of Ukraine, the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine declared the republic's independence from the Soviet Union on August 24 and in the days that followed began to take its first steps toward building an independent democratic state.

Among their first moves, leaders of the Ukrainian Parliament reached a temporary economic and military agreement with a delegation of leaders of the Russian Parliament during their impromptu official visit to Kiev on August 28-29.

The negotiations and resulting joint communiqué signed by Ukrainian Supreme Soviet Chairman Leonid Kravchuk and Russian Federation Vice-President Alexander Rutskoy was meant to serve as a response to a recent statement by Russian President Boris Yeltsin questioning the current borders of republics that declared independence following the failed coup.

"Because there are rumors that Ukraine and Russia will quarrel," said Mr. Rutskoy upon the delegation's arrival at the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet. "our main purpose in Kiev is to stabilize our mutual relationship and to negotiate a program during this transitional period as union structures no longer govern the state."

The two parties, whose talks were held in the presence of five representatives of the all-union Supreme Soviet, agreed "to make joint efforts to prevent the uncontrolled disintegration of the union state, to create a temporary structure for building up individual states, subjects of the former union," and to maintain the functioning of the economy.

The also stipulated that all the "subjects of the former union" would be invited to help prepare a new economic agreement on a horizontal basis, and agreed to the creation of a collective security system during the transitional period. The parties agreed not to make any unilateral decisions on military and strategic issues, particularly in regard to nuclear weapons.

Another major point of the agreement was the parties' reconfirmation of the articles of the bilateral agreement between Ukraine and Russia of November 19, 1990, regarding mutual respect for one another's territorial integrity.

The republics' leaders also pledged to continue to uphold the USSR's obligations as delineated in various international agreements, particularly those concerning arms control. Finally, Ukraine and Russia agreed to exchange representatives to maintain constant communication.

Up to 10,000 people congregated outside the Parliament building, often chanting "independence" and "Ukraine without Moscow," while the negotiations dragged on for nearly 12 hours inside. The crowd booed Leningrad Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, who attended the talks as an observer from the USSR Supreme Soviet, when he addressed them on the steps, saying, "whoever said being independent and being together were contradictory?"

However, Mr. Sobchak also said: "No one questions Ukrainian independence, but there exist political and economic questions to be solved."

The Russian parliamentary delegation included, in addition to Mr. Rutskoy, prominent economist Grigory Yavlinsky and four others.

Other than Mr. Kravchuk, the Ukrainian side included Vice-Premier Kostiantyn Masyk, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko, presidium members Vasyl Durdynets, Vasyl Yevtukhov, Oleksander Yemets, Dmytro Pavlychko, Volodymyr Pylypchuk, Anatoliy Chepurny, Ihor Yukhnovsky, and Rukh Chairman Ivan Drach. Deputies V. Vasylenko, Levko Lukianenko, Oleksander Moroz, Volodymyr Filenko and Vyacheslav Chornovil served as consultants.

The all-union delegation consisted of Mr. Sobchak, Yuriy Ryzhov, Serhiy Riabchenko and Dr. Yuriy Shcherbak.

Historic vote for independence

The Communist-dominated Ukrainian Parliament's vote for independence last Saturday came as a big surprise to the majority of citizens of this nation of 52 million.

During the tense 11-hour extraordinary session on August 24, the heated debate focused on the behavior of parliamentary, government and Communist Party leaders during the failed Moscow coup of August 19-21.

Several thousand people gathered in front of the Supreme Soviet building shouted "Shame on Kravchuk" as he addressed the session, defending his cautious actions during the crisis. His address was followed by speeches by Communist majority leader Mr. Moroz and National Council leader Mr. Yukhnovsky.

Mr. Yukhnovsky presented the National Council's list of legislation in reaction to the coup: immediate declaration of independence; depoliticization of the Ukrainian Procuracy, KGB, Interior Ministry and militia, state organs, institutions and workplaces, central television, radio and press; the immediate release of imprisoned People's Deputy Stepan Khmara and reversal of last November's vote stripping Dr. Khmara of the official immunity; the firing of Ukrainian SSR Chief Procurator Mykhailo Potebenko and Ukrainian TV chief Mykola Okhmakevych for complicity with the coup regime; and the creation of a special commission to investigate the actions of officials during the botched overthrow.

As thousands of flag-waving Ukrainians outside chanted "independence," inside, the debate lasted for hours and several breaks were called to alleviate the tension and allow the majority and minority groups to hold strategy meetings.

After Volodymyr Yavorivsky proposed the vote on independence, reading aloud the text of the resolution and act on the declaration of independence, Mr. Kravchuk called a one-hour break, when the Communist majority met and debated the historic issue.

During their debate it appeared that most of the Communists felt there was no choice other than a decision to secede and, as they expressed it, distance themselves from the events in Moscow, particularly the strong anti-Communist movement in the Russian Parliament.

"If we don't vote for independence, it will be a disaster," said Ukrainian Communist Party chief Stanislav Hurenko during the debate.

Toward the end of the debate, two representatives from the National Council, Messrs. Yavorivsky and Pavlychko, came to the majority meeting to propose a compromise: a clause in the resolution requiring a nationwide referendum on independence on December 1.

After the break, at 5:55 p.m., the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine voted 321 to 2, with 6 abstentions, out of 360, for the Act of Declaration of the Independence of Ukraine and the creation of an independent Ukrainian state - Ukraine.

At 6 p.m., the Ukrainian Parliament voted 346 to 1, with 3 abstentions (out of 362), for the resolution declaring Ukraine an independent, democratic state, effective immediately, and calling for a republican referendum on December 1.

Expressions of euphoria from the crowd gathered outside could be heard coming through the windows to the foyer, and could occasionally be heard as the doors into the session hall were opened.

The Parliament also voted for the creation of a national guard of Ukraine and turned jurisdiction over all the armed forces located on Ukrainian territory over to the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine.

Democrats won only a partial victory in the vote for depoliticization. While the resolution on the depoliticization of the Ukrainian SSR Procuracy, Ministry of Internal Affairs and KGB passed easily, the legislature voted three times on the issue of depoliticization of state organs, institutions and workplaces. The final result was a compromise, where the decision was left up to the workers' collectives.

A proposal suggested by Second Deputy Chairman Volodymyr Hryniov to pass a resolution sealing off all party headquarters and archives to investigate possible collaboration in the coup failed to pass in Saturday's session.

The rest of the proposed legislation was passed along for consideration by the presidium, which met every day last week, Saturday through Friday.

In the final moments of the historic session, which ended at about 9 p.m., Chairman Kravchuk decided to permit a large blue and yellow Ukrainian flag, on the proposal of Mr. Chornovil, to be carried into the session hall by democratic deputies and be draped over the podium. Mr. Chornovil said the flag had hung on a tank that defended the Russian Parliament building during the coup.

As most deputies filed out of the hall, members of the opposition National Council, including many former political prisoners, remained for a few minutes in front of the flag-draped podium, singing "Hey u Luzi Chervona Kalyna" and "Shche ne Vmerla Ukraina," and raising their hands in the sign of the trident.

The deputies departed the session hall singing the Ukrainian national anthem and filed outside before the delirious crowd for a rally, which later moved to October Revolution Square.

Other than the crowd that had gathered at the Parliament, the streets of Kiev were quiet, with few signs of open celebration.

In the days that followed, the Presidium passed a number of resolutions and decrees: nationalizing all CPU property and handing it over to the Supreme Soviet and local councils; issuing an amnesty for all political prisoners; suspending all CPU activities and freezing CPU assets and bank accounts pending official investigations into possible collaboration with the coup plotters; setting up a committee of inquiry into official behavior during the coup; and establishing a committee on military matters related to the creation of a Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.

People's Deputy Stepan Khmara and his co-defendants, as well as Oles Serhiyenko and Anatoliy Lupynis were freed in the early morning of Monday, August 26, in connection with the amnesty.

Following the failure of the Supreme Soviet to pass a decree sealing off CPU headquarters throughout the republic, local councils nationwide, including the Kiev City Council Executive Committee, have voted to do so.

On Sunday, August 25, the Kiev city leadership issued an order to seal off all the oblast and city party headquarters, within Kiev city limits as well as the headquarters of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, located on Ordzhonikidze Street.

The orders were carried out, and the red flag of the USSR was taken down off the Stalinesque building. The office of Ukrainian Party Chief Hurenko also was sealed off.

On Monday, August 26, the City Executive Committee of Ukraine's capital city also voted to remove all the monuments of Communist heroes from public places, including the Lenin monument on the central October Revolution Square. The large square will be renamed Ukrainian Independence Square as will the central metro station below it, the executive committee decided.

Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, September 1, 1991, No. 35, Vol. LIX

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