Ukraine’s first president Leonid Kravchuk died at 88

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Former Ukrainian president Leonid Makarovych Kravchuk, the country’s first elected president, has died, Ukrainian officials said Tuesday.

The cause of his death was not disclosed.

The 88-year-old has had a decorated career Ukrainepolitics, primarily helping to push for its independence from the Soviet Union. He later helped dissolve the USSR as a whole.

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After Ukraine gained independence in 1991, Kravchuk was elected the country’s first president. He served until 1994.

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk addresses supporters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko during an election rally in Kiev, Ukraine on Tuesday, January 22, 2019.

Former Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk addresses supporters of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko during an election rally in Kiev, Ukraine on Tuesday, January 22, 2019.
(Photo AP / Efrem Lukatsky, file)

Kravchuk, together with the leaders of Russia and Belarus, also jointly signed an agreement that formally dissolved the Soviet Union on Dec.8, 1991.

The current president of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskii he recognized the importance of Kravchuk for the country’s history, calling him “a man who knew how to find wise words and say them so that all Ukrainians would listen to them”.

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“This is especially important in times of trouble and crisis. When the future of an entire country may depend on one person’s wisdom,” Zelenskyy added.

FU.S. President Bill Clinton and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk shake hands after their press conference at Kiev airport on January 12, 1994.

FU.S. President Bill Clinton and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk shake hands after their press conference at Kiev airport on January 12, 1994.
(AP photo / Marcy Nightswander, file)

He also said that the former leader “knew the price of freedom and with all his heart he wanted peace for Ukraine. I am sure we will achieve it. We will get our victory and our peace”.

Similarly, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov praised Kravchuk for being integral in seeing the end of the Soviet Union, which he called “the Empire of Evil.”

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

Russian President Boris Yeltsin, right, with Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk, left, and Belarusian leader Stanislav Shushkevich, center, applaud after signing a statement agreeing to create a new Community of Independent States in Raouchani , Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, USSR, Sunday, Dec 8, 1991. (Photo AP, File)

Kravchuk’s death comes just a week after the death of the first president of post-Soviet Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich. hey what 87

The Associated Press contributed to this report.