Under fire for a ships-for-energy trade with Russia, President Leonid Kravchuk agreed Wednesday to face a nationwide vote of confidence and step down if he loses, lawmakers said.
The president took the position during a closed-door meeting with members of Ukraine’s Parliament, a bastion of opposition that has demanded a tougher line in relations with Russia and the West.
Criticism came to a head after Kravchuk agreed with Russian President Boris N. Yeltsin last Friday to hand over Ukraine’s former Soviet warheads and Black Sea Fleet ships in exchange for Russian debt relief and nuclear fuel for Ukraine’s power plants.
Russia and the West cheered the agreement, but Kravchuk was accused of betrayal. The largest opposition party, Rukh, called him the “guarantor of the loss of Ukraine’s independence.”
Kravchuk denied giving away Ukraine’s ships and weapons, saying the agreement was the only way to guarantee independence because the nation’s dire economy did not allow the luxury of another political battle with Russia.