30 years ago USSR was formally dissolved

Wednesday marks the 30th anniversary of the Belovezh Accords, signed by the leaders of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine, Stanisláŭ Šuškiévič, Boris Yeltsin and Leonid Kravchuk, formally ending the existence of the Union of the Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR) and the establishment of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

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The agreement was signed during a meeting at the residence of the Soviet authorities in Viskuli in the Belarusian part of the Belovezh (Białowieża) Forest. “The Soviet Union as a geopolitical reality and subject of international law ceases to exist,” the agreement stated. In its place, the sovereign republics established the CIS.

After a few days, the parliaments of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus ratified the agreement. Less than two weeks after the meeting in Białowieża, on December 21, at the summit in Alma-Ata, south-east Kazakhstan, all former soviet republics of the USSR except Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Georgia joined the CIS.

On December 25, 1991, Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Following his statement, the red flag of the USSR was lowered from the tower of the Moscow Kremlin, and the white, blue and red flag of Russia was hung instead. A day later, the USSR was formally dissolved and the independence of its republics was recognised. The independence of the Baltic states had been earlier recognised by the USSR on September 6, 1991.

In interviews with the Polish Press Agency, Mr Šuškiévič recalled that the meeting in Białowieża was originally intended to solve short-term problems with the supplies of Russian gas and crude oil to Belarus and Ukraine. The talks over time covered a wider topic, and the leaders came to the conclusion that “the only decision they can make is the liquidation of the USSR,” the Belarusian politician stressed.

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“When we signed the Belarusian agreements, the Soviet Union did not exist anymore. The events on December 8 were only a confirmation of this fact,” he added.

The USSR was formally established on December 30, 1922. At the end of its existence, the USSR consisted of 15 union republics.

The Commonwealth of Independent States currently includes nine countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan has the status of an associate member. In 2018, Ukraine withdrew its representatives from the CIS. Georgia was also a member of the organisation between 1993 and 2009.