In Conversation with Mustafa Cemilev, Putin Declines Legitimacy of Ukraine’s Separation from USSR

The President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, stated to Ukraine’s MP and former head of Mejlis of Crimean Tatars, Mustafa Cemilev, that Ukraine’s separation from the USSR was illegitimate.

According to Ukrainian news agency UNIAN, this statement was released to the Ukrainian media by Cemilev after his phone conversation with Putin in Moscow. The conversation was held with the assistance of the former President of Tatarstan Mintimer Shaimiev and lasted for about an hour.

“I told Putin that the most important issue is territorial integrity of our country, because its violation is a breach of the agreement [the Budapest Memorandum – UCMC] which was signed by three guarantor states – the USA, the United Kingdom and Russia in 1994 in return for our renouncement of nuclear weapons. I also said to him that if it would be broken, as a consequence, this kind of agreement will not be trusted anymore, and the aim of every country, which has financial possibiities, will acquire its nuclear weapons, and Ukraine is no exception”, said Cemilev.

“On the topic of territorial integrity of Ukraine, Putin raised the issue of Ukraine’s self-proclaimed independence, which [according to him – UCMC] did not correspond to the Soviet standards, which provide a procedure or secession from the USSR. This is his position”, Cemilev stressed.

In 1991, Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada voted to declare Ukraine’s independence. On December 1, 1991 Ukrainians had the choice of either endorsing a declaration of independence from Moscow or not. All residents of Ukraine over 18 years of age, including Soviet troops stationed in Ukraine, were eligible to vote.

More than 84% of eligible voters in Ukraine (32 million people) voted, and more than 90% endorsed independence. All 24 Oblasts, the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and the two Special Cities (Kyiv and Sevastopol) voted for independence.

On December 8, 1991, the presidents of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine held a meeting in Belovezhskaya Pushcha, where they founded the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Agreement on the establishment of the CIS was ratified by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on December 10, 1991, with reservations that later made it impossible for Ukraine to become a member of the CIS. Clause 3 of the agreement stated that the CIS states, reforming factions of the armed forces of the former USSR on their territories and creating their own military, will cooperate in ensuring international peace and security.