On Friday Ukraine’s presidency announced that a deal was reached to resolve the country’s crisis after 75 people were killed in two days of the worst violence since Soviet times.
After hours of European-led negotiations, the deal was signed in the presidential palace’s Blue Hall in the presence of EU envoys by Yanukovych and three top opposition leaders – Oleh Tyahnybok, Vitali Klitschko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The peace pact met the demands of the opposition that called for early elections, a new constitution and a new unity government. The deal promises presidential elections will be held no later than December, instead of March 2015 as scheduled.
“There are no steps that we should not take to restore peace in Ukraine. I announce that I am initiating early elections,” said in a statement on his website President Yanukovych.
He said Ukraine would revert to a previous constitution under which parliament had greater control over the make-up of the government, including the prime minister. The constitutional change was approved within minutes of the deal’s signature by 386 deputies in the 450-set Verkhovna Rada parliament.
The agreement, published in full on the German foreign ministry website, states that presidential elections should be held no later than December and says the authorities will not impose a state of emergency on condition that the authorities and opposition refrain from further use of violence.
The sides have also agreed that an investigation must be launched into the acts of violence committed, under joint monitoring from the Ukrainian authorities, opposition and the Council of Europe.
Opposition leader Oleh Tyahnybok says one condition of the agreement was that the present interior minister and prosecutor-general be excluded from any interim government, Reuters reported, citing Interfax. The parliament also voted to free jailed opposition figure Yulia Tymoshenko and to offer amnesty to protesters involved in the protests.
The breakthrough was confirmed in a tweet from the German foreign office: “After talks with [foreign minister Frank-Walter] Steinmeier, Maidan’s civic council [the protest leadership] decided to mandate opposition leaders to sign agreement.”
Another of the European Union facilitators, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, described the agreement as a “good compromise for Ukraine”. In a post on Twitter, he said it “gives peace a chance. Opens the way for reform and to Europe”.
Arseniy Yatsenyuk, one of three opposition members of Parliament who signed the accord with President Viktor F. Yanukovych, acknowledged that it might not go down well with protesters who want Mr. Yanukovych gone, but said they could be persuaded.
“We need to explain, and we need to not only explain, we need to act,” he said after marathon negotiations at the presidential administration building mediated by European and Russian diplomats. “People will never trust any kind of signature. People will trust real action.”
As The NY Times reports, one of the problems could be a refusal by Russia’s representative to join the Europeans in signing the accord, which suggested Moscow might work to undo the deal through economic or other pressure. “I am upset that the Russians are not signatories,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said. “I am really upset.”
EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels agreed to impose sanctions on officials held responsible for the violence on Thursday night, including a travel ban and asset freeze on close allies of Mr. Yanukovych. The White House welcomed the deal, but said it remains prepared to impose additional sanctions.