Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 53

Ukraine’s independence was not a result of the Belovezhye agreement but, rather, of the December 1, 1991 referendum in which the country voted for independence, President Leonid Kuchma told a news conference March 15. Kuchma observed that the Duma’s vote "has clearly shown how Russia’s supreme legislature sees the future." On Russian state television the same evening, Kuchma warned that the Duma’s action "in effect plants a mine under the CIS" and arouses the "world concern." In a statement issued the same day, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry said that "hopes to revive the union state… are out of touch with the present political realities;" and it "condemned this threat to the peace and stability, not only of the newly independent countries of the former USSR, but also of the entire international community."

Former president Leonid Kravchuk, who had signed the Belovezhye documents for Ukraine, urged the country on television "not to be afraid" in facing a domestic leftist backlash which, Kravchuk predicted, will follow the Russian Duma’s action. On March 17, rallies averaging 1,000 to 2,000 participants, mainly ethnic Russian Communists, were held in Kiev, Donetsk, Crimea’s capital Simferopol, and several other cities to observe the fifth anniversary of the 1991 referendum on preserving the USSR. The rallies endorsed the Russian Duma’s action, Gennady Zyuganov’s candidacy for Russia’s presidency, Ukraine’s "full integration in the CIS," and a return to the "socialist path of development" in Ukraine. (Interfax-Ukraine, Russian TV, March 15-17)