Leonid Kravchuk: Ukraine’s first president dies at age 88, Kiev says

Ukraine’s first president, Leonid Kravchuk, has died at the age of 88, Kiev officials said.

Kravchuk led Ukraine to independence after the collapse of the former Soviet Union and was its first president until 1994.

He had joined the former leaders of Russia and Belarus in signing a treaty that formally dissolved the USSR in December 1991.

Andriy Yermak, the head of the office of current President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, confirmed Kravchuk’s death on Telegram.

The 88-year-old was in poor health and underwent heart surgery last year.

During his presidency, Kravchuk agreed to transfer the remaining Soviet nuclear weapons to Ukrainian territory under Russian control in a US-backed deal.

His Communist Party lost the 1994 presidential election to former Prime Minister Leonid Kuchma.

He returned to politics in 2020 to try to negotiate a solution to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, where The Russian-backed separatists had been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov wrote on Twitter that Kravchuk had helped disintegrate “the Evil Empire” in 1991.

“Thank you for the peaceful renewal of our independence. We are defending it now with weapons in our hands, ”added Reznikov.