Ukraine decides on independence

September 4, 1991

By Andrey Nikovor

The Ukrainian parliament declared independence on August 24 with 346 deputies in favour and only one opposed. The declaration, signed by the President Leonid Krawchuk, is subject to a referendum to be held on December 1.

The declaration, including a proposal to take control of all Soviet military facilities on Ukrainian territory, was made during an emergency session while 20,000 demonstrators outside the parliament called for independence. The demonstration was organised by the nationalist Popular Front, Rukh.

Last week, the activities of the Communist Party of the Ukraine (KPU) were suspended. All party property is to be handed over to city administrations. Krawchuk has

resigned from the KPU.

Allegations of KPU complicity in the failed coup attempt continue, including rumours of plans to arrest 20 key activists and some 250,000 people around the republic. The allegations focus on the Central Committee and its general secretary, Hurenko.

Stepan Khmara, the deputy leader of the Ukrainian Republican Party (URP), has been released after his arrest in November 1990 for allegedly assaulting a plain-clothes police colonel.

The URP is possibly the best placed party with the apparent demise of KPU. Its leader, Lev Lukianenko, is in a good position to win the presidency from Krawchuk if the election for the position, which was to be held on December 1, goes ahead at a later date.

Although Lukianenko holds more liberal views, his deputy, Khmara, has in the past taken a more extreme stand on independence and has substantial support within the URP in his own right. At a conference of the party in May, the URP avoided a split by ensuring that Khmara retained vice-presidency of the party.

Leonid Krawchuk lost a lot of credibility during the coup period by remaining silent. He called a conference of the military leaders of the Ukrainian republic, the KGB and the general secretary of the KPU. Following this, he issued a statement to the Ukrainian public not to concern themselves with the events in Moscow and to continue as normal.

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