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Ukraine Handed Russia All Their Nuclear Weapons In 1996 In Exchange For A Guarantee They’d Never Be Invaded

Charisa Bossinakis

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Ukraine Handed Russia All Their Nuclear Weapons In 1996 In Exchange For A Guarantee They’d Never Be Invaded

Russia's invasion of Ukraine is a clear breach of an agreement that was signed in the mid-1990s.

Following the Cold War and Ukraine's separation from the Soviet Union, the country was the world's third largest stockpiler of nuclear weapons.

But in 1994, they decided to hand over their nuclear arsenal in exchange for a guarantee never to be threatened or invaded.

This happened when Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan signed The Budapest Memorandum, which brought Ukraine into the global Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. 

Credit: Alamy
Credit: Alamy

Russia, the US and Britain also signed this document which promised none of these countries would invade Ukraine and respect its sovereignties and existing borders while also giving them political independence.

The Memorandum stated: “Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine.”

The document added that Russia, the US and Britain also wouldn’t use economic coercion tactics against Ukraine either.

Before Ukraine handed over their nuclear arsenal to Russia, Arms Control Association of the US estimated the country possessed 1,900 strategic warheads, 176 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), and 44 strategic bombers.

Russian tanks have entered Ukraine. Credit: Alamy
Russian tanks have entered Ukraine. Credit: Alamy

Despite signing the agreement 20 years prior, Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

Not only did this violate the terms of the Budapest Memorandum, but it also broke international law, the 1991 Belavezha Accords (which set up the Commonwealth of Independent States), the 1975 Helsinki Accords, and the 1997 Treaty on friendship, cooperation and partnership between the Russian Federation and Ukraine.

Now Ukraine finds itself in a similar situation after Russia invaded their territory and launched a war that has already seen thousands of people killed.

Ukraine has since expressed regrets about giving up their weapons in the '90s as they believe it would’ve at least stalled Putin’s invasion.

Former Defence Minister Andriy Zahorodniuk told the New York Times that: “We gave away the capability for nothing.

“Now, every time somebody offers us to sign a strip of paper, the response is, ‘Thank you very much. We already had one of those some time ago.’”

If you would like to donate to the Red Cross Emergency Appeal, which will help provide food, medicines and basic medical supplies, shelter and water to those in Ukraine, click here for more information.

Featured Image Credit: Alamy

Topics: News, Russia, Ukraine, Vladimir Putin, Politics

Charisa Bossinakis
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