In an exclusive RIA Novosti interview, Leonid Kravchuk, a former president of the independent Ukraine, insisted on the Soviet Union's collapse having been pre-determined by history. "It had been a wreck as a geopolitical structure as early as ten years before the official breakup," he said. To corroborate his viewpoint, Kravchuk will take us back to December 1991 when the USSR was no longer the cementing link of the Union republics it had been before the Nagorny Karabakh crisis. The Union's prestige was also marred by developments in Georgia, Abkhazia, the Trans-Dniester Republic (formerly part of Moldova), and South and North Ossetia. Kravchuk made a point of the Baltic republics having withdrawn from the Soviet Union prior to its disintegration. On December 8, 1991, Presidents Leonid Kravchuk of Ukraine, Boris Yeltsin of Russia, and Stanislav Shushkevich of Belorussia met in the Belovezha woods to sign a statement on the denunciation of the Union Treaty and an agreement on the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States--two documents that enabled the Soviet republics to secede from the Union and gain independence. "I welcome the events of December 8, 1991. I and my counterparts from Russia and Belorussia had no doubts that the Union Treaty was to be denounced," said Kravchuk. "Our task was to carry this out in a civilized manner, in accordance with the Soviet Constitution, which laid down that every Union republic had the right to self-determination, up to withdrawal from the Union," said Kravchuk. Ukraine's ex-president believes that the documents signed at Belovezha changed the course of history, influencing the developments and the alignment of forces in the international arena. Another positive factor was that the Belovezha accords made the CIS take over the USSR's international obligations. Ukraine's ex-president believes that the withdrawal from the Soviet Union had a positive effect on the development of his republic and of other former Soviet republics.
Russian small missile ships - the Grad Sviyazhsk and the Great Ustyug - set off for a mission to the Mediterranean Sea