Ukraine: Confusion Reigns Over Possible Peace Deal
Confusion reigned in Ukraine Friday as President Viktor Yanukovych declared that a peace agreement is imminent, but declined to make a formal announcement after all-night negotiations with the Opposition. The negotiations were mediated by foreign ministers from Germany, Poland, and France.
Meanwhile, diplomats stated Friday morning that a compromise drafted overnight involved appointing a transitional government, drafting a revised constitution by September which would limit presidential powers, and holding new elections by 2015.
Yanukovych stated that an agreement would be signed by the end of the day Friday, with some reports marking the time as early as 12:00 p.m. However, that hour passed with no word of an agreement - and the Opposition groups have yet to release a formal statement on the matter.
Members of the crowds protesting for the Opposition have expressed reservations about the agreement to the media.
"This is just another piece of paper. We will not leave the barricades until Yanukovich steps down. That's all people want," said protestor Anton Solovyov, 28, to Reuters on Friday.
Meanwhile, violence flared up again in Kiev, which has already seen at least 77 people die in 48 hours from clashes between protesters and police. Various news outlets reported that shots could be heard near Independence Square on Friday morning, just after the president announced the compromise.
"Participants in the mass disorder opened fire on police officers and tried to burst through in the direction of the parliament building," a police statement said Friday, according to Sky News. Opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk told the agency that armed police tried to enter the parliamentary hall during negotiations, but were forced out.
The development is the latest in a series of mass protests in Kiev since early December, when hundreds stormed Independence Square to protest the government's refusal to become a full member of the European Union (EU). Yanukovych opted to strengthen ties with Russia instead of joining the EU - angering the population which was once under Soviet rule.
International pressure on Yanukovych to end the ongoing unrest has stepped up over the past month in light of multiple reports of police brutality. Both the EU and the US have threatened Ukraine with sanctions if the crackdown continues.