Turning the pages back...
August 21, 1991
The Ukrainian Weekly's correspondent on the scene in Kyiv, Chrystyna Lapychak, reported on the collapse of the attempted coup in Moscow in the issue dated August 25, 1991. Excerpts of the front-page news story, headlined "Kravchuk criticized as Ukraine welcomes coup's collapse," follow.
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After two days of tension and uncertainty about the future, thousands of relieved Ukrainians welcomed news on Wednesday, August 21, of the collapse of the junta of Communist hardliners who had overthrown Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev two days earlier with a victory rally in the central October Revolution Square.
Chanting "Yeltsin! Yeltsin! Down with Kravchuk!" the crowd listened to representatives of the democratic opposition in the Ukrainian Parliament and various public groups express their gratitude toward Russian SFSR President Boris Yeltsin for his successful standoff against the instigators of the failed coup d'état.
The speakers placed the blame for the coup on the Communist Party and the Soviet president himself for appointing the people who overthrew him, criticized Ukrainian leader Leonid Kravchuk for his failure to strongly condemn the junta and called for the creation of a national guard in Ukraine.
Leaders of Ukraine's Parliament reacted to the end of the coup and reinstatement of Mr. Gorbachev as USSR president by voting on Thursday to hold an extraordinary session of the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet on Saturday, August 24, to assess the political situation in Ukraine in the aftermath of the failed coup.
While the dramatic events unfolded early last week in the Russian republic and the Baltic states, Ukraine was relatively quiet as many Ukrainian parliamentary leaders, including the cautious Chairman Kravchuk, adopted a wait-and-see attitude in regard to the self-declared State Committee on the State Emergency in Moscow.
It took two days for the Communist-dominated Presidium to issue a statement on the coup, regarded by observers and members of the opposition as only a half-step because it contained neither a strong condemnation of the creation and actions of this self-declared committee as unconstitutional and illegal, nor a phrase publicly supporting Russian President Yeltsin in his standoff at the Russian Parliament.
"It is painful, very painful that our Ukraine did not stand alongside Yeltsin," declared USSR and Ukrainian People's Deputy Volodymyr Yavorivsky during the Wednesday victory rally in Kyiv.
During a Thursday, August 22, press conference with foreign journalists, Chairman Kravchuk blamed the delay in issuing a statement on the make-up of the Presidium, which has only seven democrats out of 28 members. However, he defended his cautious approach as a way of preventing "a provocation" leading to a declaration of martial law in Ukraine.
The Parliament chairman said he had spoken to Mr. Yeltsin several times a day since the overthrow of Mr. Gorbachev and had informed him from the start that he would oppose "this unconstitutional act," "this adventure" and would never officially recognize the "self-declared" regime.
The statement issued by the Parliament's Presidium, as well as most of Mr. Kravchuk's public statements declared that the laws and Constitution of the Ukrainian SSR take precedence over all other laws or decrees on the territory of the republic.
The main point of contention in the Presidium's statement was its call on the Ukrainian population to avoid strikes and public meetings and to exercise restraint in order to prevent a declaration of "an emergency situation" in Ukraine like in parts of Russia and the Baltics.
In contrast, the pro-independence opposition, which formed a coalition of democratic organizations and political parties called Independent Democratic Ukraine in response to the overthrow, called on the population to take to the streets and on labor to commence a general strike.
Over two dozen groups, led by the Popular Movement of Ukraine, Rukh, and the National Council, issued a joint statement on Monday demanding that the Presidium of the Ukrainian Parliament officially condemn the State Emergency Committee and convene an extraordinary session.
"I would like to emphasize that in this difficult situation under threat from this anti-constitutional junta with all our shortcomings only the National Council remained the actual acting Parliament, while the Communist majority sat in the bushes waiting to see how it all ends," said Ukrainian People's Deputy Volodymyr Filenko of the Party for the Democratic Rebirth of Ukraine at the victory rally.
Souce: The Ukrainian Weekly, August 25, 1991, Vol. LIX, No. 34.
Copyright © The Ukrainian Weekly, August 18, 1996, No. 33, Vol. LXIV
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