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Former Belarusian leader Stanislav Shushkevich dies in Minsk

Former Belarusian leader Stanislav Shushkevich dies in Minsk
Former Belarusian leader Stanislav Shushkevich delivers a speech at John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, on July 1, 2009. He died in Minsk on Wednesday. File Photo by Piotr Polak/EPA

May 4 (UPI) -- Stanislav Shushkevich, the first leader of an independent Belarus after the fall of the Soviet Union, died in Minsk on Wednesday at 87.

The death of Shushkevich, one of the original signatories of the decree dissolving the Soviet Union, was confirmed by his wife, Iryna, according to the Voice of America.

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She said Shushkevich died of complications from COVID-19 and had been in intensive care since April.

Shushkevich, Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk came to an agreement in 1991 to dissolve the Soviet Union without the knowledge of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

The move led to Gorbachev resigning as the leader of the Soviet Union three weeks later. The secret deal led to the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance later joined by more former Soviet republics.

He was followed by current Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Shushkevich became a constant critic of Lukashenko as he his long-term rule became more authoritarian and as he moved closer to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia.

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