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Soviet Leaders Recall 'Inevitable' Breakup Of Soviet Union

Leonid Kravchuk, Stanislau Shushkevich, and Boris Yeltsin (left to right), the three signatories of the Belavezha Agreement (ITAR-TASS) PRAGUE, December 8, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Today is the 15th anniversary of the agreement between Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine that dissolved the Soviet Union.

One of the signatories, Stanislau Shushkevich, who was the chairman of the Belarusian Supreme Soviet at the time, told RFE/RL's Belarus Service that those who believe the Belavezha Agreement, signed in a Belarusian hunting lodge near Brest, was the act that broke up the Soviet Union "are wrong."

Shushkevich said "the union had already been broken up by the putschists" who in August 1991 tried to remove the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev from power to prevent the transformation of the Soviet Union into what Shushkevich described as "a confederation."

"We had enough courage to acknowledge that [the breakup] had taken place," Shushkevich said.

Shushkevich said the threat of a violent breakup similar to what happened in Yugoslavia existed and that "there was no other way out of the situation than a divorce."

In its place, Shushkevich, Russian President Boris Yeltsin, and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk announced the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose political and trade union that now groups 12 of the 15 former Soviet republics.

On December 21, 1991, the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Ukraine signed a protocol to the agreement, making official the formation of the CIS. Georgia joined in 1993.

In an interview with "Rossiiskaya gazeta" to mark the anniversary of the Belavezha Agreement, Yeltsin called the fall of the Soviet Union "inevitable" and credited the CIS with playing an important role in preserving stability.

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