Twenty-eight years ago, in the days following Ukraine’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union on August 24, 1991, Ukraine’s Parliament reached a temporary economic and military agreement with a delegation of leaders of the Russian Parliament during their impromptu official visit to Kyiv on August 28-29.
A joint communiqué was signed by Ukrainian Supreme Soviet Chairman Leonid Kravchuk and Russian Federation Vice-President Alexander Rutskoy in response to a statement by Russian President Boris Yeltsin, who questioned the current borders of republics that declared independence following the failed Communist coup.
“Because there are rumors that Ukraine and Russia will quarrel,” said Mr. Rutskoy, “our main purpose in Kyiv is to stabilize our mutual relationship and to negotiate a program during this transitional period that union structures no longer govern the state.”
The two sides 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 the of the economy. All the “subjects of the former union” would be invited to help prepare a new economic agreement on a horizontal basis, and the creation of a collective security system during the transitional period. No unilateral decisions on military and strategic issues would be made, particularly in regard to nuclear weapons. Another point of the agreement was the parties’ affirmation of the articles of the bilateral agreement between Ukraine and Russia of November 19, 1990, regarding mutual respect for one another’s territorial integrity.
Also, the leaders pledged to continue to uphold the USSR’s obligations as delineated in various international agreements, particularly those concerning arms control, and Ukraine and Russia agreed to exchange representatives to maintain constant communication.
More than 10,000 people gathered outside the Parliament building in Kyiv chanted “independence” and “Ukraine without Moscow,” while the negotiations dragged on for nearly 12 hours. The crowd booed Leningrad Mayor Anatoly Sobchak when he said, “whoever said being independent and being together were contradictory?”
During those early days of independence, the presidium of Ukraine’s Parliament passed a number of resolutions and decrees. Communist Party of Ukraine (CPU) property was nationalized and handed over to the Parliament and local councils; amnesty was declared for all political prisoners; CPU activities were suspended, assets frozen pending an investigation into possible collaboration with the coup plotters and a committee was set up to investigate such activity; and a committee was founded for the creation of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine.
On August 26, the City Executive Committee of Kyiv voted to remove all the monuments of Communist heroes from all public places, including the Lenin monument on October Revolution Square, which was renamed Independence Square, as was the metro station located underneath the square.
Source: “Ukraine, Russia sign interim bilateral pact,” by Chrystyna Lapychak,
The Ukrainian Weekly, September 1, 1991.