Washington, DC – The International Republican Institute (IRI) released the following statement on the passing of former leader of Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich:
“IRI deeply regrets the passing of the first leader of independent Belarus, Stanislav Shushkevich.
“From his humble beginnings as the descendant of Belarusian peasants, Mr. Shushkevich became a professor of nuclear physics prior to entering politics during the twilight of the Soviet Union, spurred by the USSR’s ill-fated response to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
“Mr. Shushkevich would go on to be a key figure in one of the most defining moments for democracy in the 20th century. In December 1991, as Belarus’s Supreme Soviet Chairman, Mr. Shushkevich hosted Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk and Russian President Boris Yeltsin to sign the Belavezha Accords, which declared that ‘the USSR as a geopolitical reality, and as a subject of international law, has ceased to exist.’
“After failing to become Belarus’s president in the 1994 election, which went to current authoritarian Alexander Lukashenko, Mr. Shushkevich remained both an advocate for freedom in his country and an open critic of Lukashenko. He subsequently founded a social-democratic party, Gramada, and remained active at demonstrations against the Lukashenko regime. Shushkevich continued to be a source of encouragement for opposition candidates who shared his vision for democracy in Belarus.
“A stalwart proponent of liberty for his people, Mr. Shushkevich’s legacy lives on in the courageous hearts of those Belarusians who carry the democratic movement forward.
“Our sincere condolences to his family and loved ones at this difficult time.”Top