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PEREYASLAV KHMELNITSKY, January 18, 19:44 /ITAR-TASS/. The Pereyaslav Rada (or Council), which convened on this day 360 years ago became a historic and crucial event for both Ukraine and Russia, Ukrainian Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov said in his message of greetings to the Assembly of Slavic Peoples of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus on Saturday, January 18.
“The Pereyaslav Rada was that great event that chartered the path for spiritual, cultural and civilisational development of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus for centuries ahead,” the prime minister said.
Assessing the Slavic movement, he noted that “it is particularly relevant today” as it is based on “the broad support of society and has a tremendous potential for development.”
Azarov expressed confidence that “mutual attraction is undoubtedly stronger than persistent attempts to incite mutual mistrust and strife between brotherly people.”
Attending the Assembly are MPs from Russia and Ukraine, prominent public figures and scholars. They are discussing the importance of the Pereyaslav Rada of 1654 that marked the unification of Russia and Ukraine.
The participants stressed the need to restore a common economic, humanitarian and defence space between Ukraine, Russia and Belarus.
“We urge the governments of Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and brotherly Kazakhstan to immediately resume the talks on Ukraine’s participation in the Common Economic Space and complete them by 2015. We call on the parliaments of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan to provide political support for the creation of the Eurasian Economic Union with Ukraine’s participation. We wholeheartedly support the idea of holding a referendum on Ukraine’s accession to the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space of Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan,” they said in the declaration.
The forum’s participants asked the presidents and parliaments to designate January 18 as Unity Day for the Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian people.
Konstantin Zatulin, Director of the Institute of CIS Studies, told ITAR-TASS that “this day embodies the unity of the Ukrainian, Russia and Belarusian people” and “the initiative to proclaim January 18 Unity Day may be formalised legislatively. We will motion such a proposal in the State Duma.”
He expressed hope that this initiative would be supported by the Belarusian and Ukrainian parliaments.
“This date - 360th anniversary of the Pereyaslav Rada - is as important for Ukraine and Russia today as never before. In December Russia extended a helping hand to Ukraine in much the same way it did 360 years ago. But this does not change its essence: we are the closest people in the world -- Ukrainians, Russians and Belarusians. We are always stronger together,” Zatulin said.
“It is important that people came here to express Ukraine’s friendship towards Russia and Belarus,” he added.
In his message to the Assembly’s participants, Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia stressed the need to “preserve peace and accord on the territories of historical Rus.”
The Treaty of Pereyaslav was concluded in January 1654 in the Ukrainian city of Pereyaslav (now Pereiaslav Khmelnytsky), at a meeting between the council of Zaporozhian Cossacks and Vasily Buturlin, representative of Tsar Alexei I of Russia, during the Khmelnytsky Uprising.
In Pereyaslav there was no written treaty, only an act of acknowledgement of the overlordship of the Russian monarch took place. Khmelnytsky and many Ukrainians (127,000 total including 64,000 Cossacks, according to the Russian reckoning) ended up swearing allegiance to the Russian Tsar. The Russians subsequently agreed to the majority of the Ukrainian demands, granting the Cossack state broad autonomy, large Cossack register and preservation of the status of the Kiev Orthodox Patriarch, who would keep reporting to the Patriarch of Constantinople (rather than Moscow). The Cossack hetman (leader) was prohibited from conducting independent foreign policy, especially in respect to the Commonwealth and the Ottoman Empire, as the Tsardom pledged now to provide the Hetmanate’s defence. The status of Ukraine, seen by the negotiators as being in union with the Russian state (rather than Poland), was thus settled.
In 2004, after the celebration of the 350th anniversary of the event, the administration of then President Leonid Kuchma of Ukraine established January 18 as the official date to commemorate the event.