Stanislav Shushkevich, post-Soviet leader of Belarus, dies

May 3, 2022, 2:37 PM | Updated: May 4, 2022, 10:12 am
FILE - Stanislav Shushkevich, opposition leader, answers reporter's questions in his office in Mins...

FILE - Stanislav Shushkevich, opposition leader, answers reporter's questions in his office in Minsk, Belarus, Friday, Oct. 15, 2004 Shushkevich, the former leader of Belarus who led it to independence during the breakup of the Soviet Union, has died. He was 87. Shushkevich died early Wednesday, May 4, 2022, according to his wife. Last month, he was hospitalized for a few days after contracting COVID-19. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)

(AP Photo/Sergei Grits, File)

LVIV, Ukraine (AP) — Stanislav Shushkevich, who steered Belarus to independence, served as its first leader and is reported to have taught Russian to John F. Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald in the 1960s, has died. He was 87.

Shushkevich died early Wednesday, according to his wife, Irina, after hospitalization last month for COVID-19.

Shushkevich was a harsh critic of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who succeeded him as the nation’s leader in 1994 and has ruled with an iron fist ever since, relentlessly crushing dissent.

When Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, Shushkevich criticized Lukashenko for allowing Moscow to use Belarus as a staging ground for amassing troops and launching the war.

“When the occupation of Belarus ends, when peace, the law and sovereignty return to Belarus, streets and monuments to Stanislav Shushkevich will certainly appear in Belarussian cities,” Belarus’ exiled opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, said Wednesday.

Memorializing Shushkevich, she said his “journey toward a free, peaceful and independent Belarus we’re continuing, day by day.”

Shushkevich, a university professor, became a lawmaker in Belarus during Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s political reforms. Following a botched hardline Soviet coup in August 1991, he was elected to lead the then-republic as the speaker of the Belarusian legislature.

On Dec. 8, 1991, Shushkevich hosted the leaders of Russia and Ukraine at a secluded hunting lodge near Poland to sign an agreement that declared the Soviet Union defunct and formed a new alliance of the three Slavic republics called the Commonwealth of Independent States.

Two weeks later, eight other Soviet republics joined the alliance, effectively terminating the authority of Gorbachev, who stepped down on Dec. 25, 1991.

Shushkevich spoke about the signing of the agreement with pride in an interview last year with The Associated Press. He called the accord he signed with Boris Yeltsin of Russia and Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine a “diplomatic masterpiece.”

“A great empire, a nuclear superpower, split into independent countries that could cooperate with each other as closely as they wanted, and not a single drop of blood was shed,” Shushkevich told the AP.

“We decided to shut the prison of nations,” he said. “There was nothing to feel contrition for.”

Shushkevich argued that he and the other leaders saw no point in Gorbachev’s efforts to keep the remaining 12 Soviet republics together.

The Baltic republics of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia already had seceded, and the failed August coup against Gorbachev by hard-line Communist Party members had eroded his authority and encouraged other republics to seek independence.

“All versions of the union treaty boiled down to the restoration of the old ways or to Gorbachev’s proposal of a new structure where he still would be the boss,” Shushkevich said.

As Belarus’ first post-Soviet leader, Shushkevich faced daunting challenges amid an economic meltdown and political turmoil that followed the breakup of the USSR. Shushkevich’s popularity waned, and when the country held its first presidential election in 1994, populist Lukashenko won by a landslide after promising to shore up the crumbling economy, combat corruption and restore Soviet-era social benefits.

Before his prominent role in the breakup of the USSR, Shushkevich became a footnote in another historic event. He taught Russian to Lee Harvey Oswald when they worked at the same radio factory in Minsk in the early 1960s. Oswald went on to assassinate U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Simonyte tweeted about the news of Shushkevich’s death that “his signature on the declaration dissolving the Soviet Union will live in history, his memory – in our hearts.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A person stands near an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 index at a securities fir...
Associated Press

Asian shares mostly lower as recession fears deepen

BANGKOK (AP) — Asian shares were mostly lower on Monday after Wall Street closed out a miserable September with a loss of 9.3%, the worst monthly decline since March 2020. Tokyo rose while other regional markets declined. Shanghai was closed for China’s weeklong National Day holidays. Japan’s Nikkei 225 index gained 0.6% to 26,100.68 after […]
23 hours ago
FILE - A man receives a flu shot in Brattleboro, Vt., on Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2021. Doctors have a mes...
Associated Press

It’s flu vaccine time and seniors need revved-up shots

Doctors have a message for vaccine-weary Americans: Don’t skip your flu shot this fall — and seniors, ask for a special extra-strength kind. After flu hit historically low levels during the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be poised for a comeback. The main clue: A nasty flu season just ended in Australia. While there’s no way […]
23 hours ago
Marines from Philippines, Japan, South Korea and the United States carry their flag during opening ...
Associated Press

US, Philippine forces hold combat drills to brace for crisis

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — More than 2,500 U.S. and Philippine marines joined combat exercises Monday to be able to respond to any sudden crisis in a region long on tenterhooks over South China Sea territorial disputes and increasing tensions over Taiwan. The annual military drills are some of the largest so far between the longtime […]
23 hours ago
Municipal workers use a crane to remove vehicles burned during Saturday's soccer riots from a stree...
Associated Press

Relatives mourn those crushed at Indonesia soccer match

JEMBER, Indonesia (AP) — Families and friends of some of the 125 people who died in a deadly crush after an Indonesia soccer match wailed in grief as the bodies of the victims were returned home Monday. Seventeen children were among the dead. The distraught family members were struggling to comprehend the sudden loss of […]
23 hours ago
Chimneys and a tank are pictured at the BASF chemical plant in Ludwigshafen, Germany, Tuesday, Sept...
Associated Press

Europe faces ‘unprecedented risk’ of gas shortage, IEA says

Europe faces “unprecedented risks” to its natural gas supplies this winter after Russia cut off most pipeline shipments and could wind up competing with Asia for already scarce and expensive liquid gas that comes by ship, the International Energy Agency said. The Paris-based IEA said in its quarterly gas report released Monday that European Union […]
23 hours ago
Associated Press

Trial to begin for man accused of killing 22 elderly Texans

DALLAS (AP) — A man charged with killing 22 women in the Dallas area is set to be tried in the death of one of them after being convicted of capital murder in the death of another earlier this year. The capital murder trial of Billy Chemirmir, 49, in the death of 87-year-old Mary Brooks […]
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Anacortes Christmas Tree...

Come one, come all! Food, Drink, and Coastal Christmas – Anacortes has it all!

Come celebrate Anacortes’ 11th annual Bier on the Pier! Bier on the Pier takes place on October 7th and 8th and features local ciders, food trucks and live music - not to mention the beautiful views of the Guemes Channel and backdrop of downtown Anacortes.
Swedish Cyberknife Treatment...

The revolutionary treatment of Swedish CyberKnife provides better quality of life for majority of patients

There are a wide variety of treatments options available for men with prostate cancer. One of the most technologically advanced treatment options in the Pacific Northwest is Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy using the CyberKnife platform at Swedish Medical Center.
Work at Zum Services...

Seattle Public Schools announces three-year contract with Zum

Seattle Public Schools just announced a three-year contract with a brand-new company to the Pacific Northwest to assist with their student transportation: Zum.
Swedish Cyberknife 900x506...

June is Men’s Health Month: Here’s Why It’s Important To Speak About Your Health

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men in the United States, on average, die five years earlier than women.
...

Anacortes – A Must Visit Summertime Destination

While Anacortes is certainly on the way to the San Juan Islands (SJI), it is not just a destination to get to the ferry… Anacortes is a destination in and of itself!
...

Ready for your 2022 Alaskan Adventure with Celebrity Cruises?

Celebrity Cruises SPONSORED — A round-trip Alaska cruise from Seattle is an amazing treat for you and a loved one. Not only are you able to see and explore some of the most incredible and visually appealing natural sights on the planet, but you’re also able to relax and re-energize while aboard a luxury cruise […]
Stanislav Shushkevich, post-Soviet leader of Belarus, dies