The historic document that heralded the collapse of the Soviet Union has gone missing from an archive in Belarus, one of its signatories said.
"It’s hard to believe the disappearance of a document at such a level, but this is a fact,"Stanislav Shushkevich, the former Belarusian leader, told the Associated Press. He said that he discovered the loss when doing research on his memoirs, and suspects it could have been stolen and sold by a Belarusian official.
The document, signed in December 1991, brought an end to the Soviet Union, which was the largest country on the planet, stretching from the Baltic to the Pacific, from the Arctic to the Pamirs. Mr Shushkevich was the first leader of independent Belarus.
The document was signed at a secret meeting hosted by Mr Shushkevich in the Belovezha Forest in Belarus. He was joined by Russian President Boris Yeltsin and Ukrainian Leonid Kravchuk, and the document declared "the USSR has ceased to exist as a subject of international law and geopolitical reality".
This thwarted the plans of Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, who wanted to hold the Soviet Union together, and he resigned later in the month. There was confirmation from Belarus that it now possesses only copies of the document.