Leonid Makarovich Kravchuk (Ukrainian: Леонид Макарович Кравчук; Great Zhytin, January 10, 1934 - Munich, May 10, 2022) was a Ukrainian politician and the first President of Ukraine since gaining independence in 1991.
He was born in 1934 in the village of Veliki Zitin in a peasant family. That area was then part of Poland, and after the Second World War it was annexed to the Ukrainian SSR. He became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union in 1958, and worked at Agitprop. He became a member of the Politburo of the Communist Party of Ukraine in 1989, and on July 23, 1990, he was elected President of the Verkhovna Rada, making him the most influential Ukrainian politician.
After the failed August 1991 coup in Moscow, Kravchuk resigned from the CPSU and declared Ukraine independent of the Soviet Union. He was elected the first president of independent Ukraine in the presidential elections in December 1991.
He strengthened his political career by avoiding conflicts, and he was characterized by cunning and diplomatic approach. During his tenure, Kravchuk turned Ukraine to the West and was one of the few leaders in the world to cleanse his country of nuclear weapons. He failed to deal with corruption, which was the cause of the poorly implemented privatization of state property. Inflation in the country reached astronomical heights between 1992 and 1994, climbing thousands of estimates.
The biggest failure during Kravchuk's mandate was the collapse of the Black Sea Steamship Company in Odessa, until then the largest merchant fleet in the world. The company was secretly sold for nothing to foreign companies for small money. Hundreds of sailors did not receive salaries and remained to live on ships around the world for the next few years. Kravchuk's son was accused of participating in embezzlement over the sale of the company.
Shocked by the collapse of the economy and rising tensions with Russia, Ukrainian voters elected Leonid Kuchma in the 1994 presidential election, promising a crackdown on corruption, economic recovery and greater co-operation with Russia.
Nuclear weapons of Ukraine
After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Ukraine inherited about 176 strategic and over 2,500 tactical nuclear missiles. At that time, Ukraine had the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world, after the United States and Russia. In an interview with D�