When the trio met, they realized they had a problem: they had no legal possibility of signing binding agreements without Gorbachev. Burbulis proposed a solution: a declaration that the Soviet Union no longer existed. The others agreed. Then someone indicated that they represented three of the four republics that had signed the document on the founding of the Soviet Union in 1922 – and that the fourth, the Republic of Transcaucas, had been dissolved in 1936. This seemed to give a legal basis to their actions. Leaders agreed to create a new community of independent states (the word “Commonwealth” was considered more neutral than “Union” or “federation”). The agreement made Russia the successor state of the Soviet Union and entrusts it with full responsibility for the USSR`s debt and nuclear arsenal. While Shushkevich called the agreement a pragmatic response to urgent challenges, former President Kravchuk became more philosophical, calling it “the culmination of Ukraine`s long road to independence” after a century in which 15 million Ukrainians had died under Soviet rule (Kravchuk spoke for the first half of his speech in Ukrainian, then slipped for the second into Russian). Conceived in a utopian promise and born in the violent upheavals of the “Great October Revolution of 1917”, the union, at the end of December 1991, unmasked in the dark darkness its last, without ideology, dismembered, bankrupt and starving – but also in autumn. On 19 August 1991, Gorbachev`s Vice-President Gennadi Janaev, Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov, Defence Minister Dmitry Jazov, KGB chief Vladimir Kryuchkov and other senior officials prevented the signing of the trade union contract by the formation of the “General State Emergency Committee”, which assigned Gorbachev – to Foros in Crimea – at home and interrupted his communications.
The putschists adopted an emergency decree suspending political activities and banning most newspapers. On 8 December, a newly free Gorbachev travelled to Minsk, where he met with leaders of the Republic of Belarus and Ukraine and signed an agreement that cut the two countries from the U.S.S.R. to create the Commonwealth of Independent States. The agreement said in part: “The Soviet Union as a theme of international and geopolitical reality no longer exists.” A few weeks later, Belarus and Ukraine followed eight of the nine remaining republics that declared independence from the USSR.