With his signature, the Evil Empire disintegrated. Thank you for the peaceful renewal of our Independence. We’re defending it now with weapons in our hands.Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov in a tweet honoring Ukraine’s first president, Leonid Kravchuk, who passed away on Tuesday evening.
- Why It Matters: Leonid Kravchuk was Ukraine's first president (1991-1994) and played an essential role in establishing Ukraine's independence from the former Soviet Union. In 1991, he refused to sign a Soviet Union treaty that aimed to restructure the government; with his refusal, he helped lead the way for the Soviet Union to be dissolved and for Ukraine to become an independent country. Former President Kravchuk was 88 years old when he passed away Tuesday.
- His life: During his childhood, Kravchuk survived World War II and the Nazi occupation. As an adult, he became educated in economics and was, for a time, a major leader of Ukraine's Communist Party. However, he quit the party in 1991 and was elected president later that year in Ukraine's first popular election.
- In 2020, Kravchuk was appointed to represent Ukraine in an effort to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine. No decision was reached, and Russian President Vladimir Putin cited parts of that continuing conflict as a reason for invading Ukraine in Feb. 2022.
- Ukrainian President Zelensky honored the country's first president, saying, “Leonid Makarovych knew what freedom costs. And with all his heart he wanted peace for Ukraine. I’m sure we will implement it. We will achieve our victory and our peace."
Leonid Kravchuk, Ukraine’s first president, dies at 88 (Washington Post)
Leonid Kravchuk, independent Ukraine's 1st president, dies at age 88 (Associated Press)
by Jenna Lee,