Deal Reached to End Ukraine Violence
Ukraine's leader and opposition have signed a deal to end the splintered country's worst crisis since independence after three days of carnage left nearly 100 protesters dead, AFP reported on Friday.
President Viktor Yanukovych's dramatic decision to hold early elections and form a new unity government was met with caution by the tens of thousands gathered on central Kiev's main square for a protest that began exactly three months earlier.
The deal was signed in the presidential palace's Blue Hall in the presence of EU envoys by Yanukovych and and three top opposition leaders, who included the boxer turned lawmaker Vitali Klitschko, according to AFP.
The peace pact met the demands the opposition had laid down at the start of the protests: the balance of political power would shift back to parliament -- as it had been before Yanukovych assumed the presidency in 2010 and took the nation of 46 million on a course away from the West and toward Russia.
It would also create an opposition cabinet with the authority to reverse Yanukovych's decision in November to ditch an historic deal that would have put Ukraine on the path to membership in a 28-nation bloc many Ukrainians see as their protector from centuries of Russian domination.
The constitutional change was approved within minutes of the deal's signature by 386 deputies in the parliament, reported AFP.
EU president Herman van Rompuy said Friday's deal was a "necessary compromise in order to launch an indispensable political dialogue that offers the only democratic and peaceful way out" of the crisis, which left the heart of Kiev resembling a war zone.
"It is now the responsibility of all parties to be courageous and turn words into deeds for the sake of Ukraine's future," he said.
Three EU foreign ministers and a Russian envoy flew in for emergency talks on Thursday.
The foreign ministers of EU powers France and Germany -- as well as Ukraine's ally Poland -- then went into separate talks with the opposition leaders in order to convince them to back the pact.
The shocking scale of the bloodshed prompted EU officials to slap travel bans against Ukrainians responsible for ordering the use of force.
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Thursday warned Yanukovych in a telephone conversation that Washington was ready to impose sanctions on officials guilty of ordering troops to fire on protesters.
Kiev authorities have put the death toll from the past few days at 77, but opposition medics said more than 60 protesters were shot dead by police on Thursday alone, a toll that combined with the 28 victims on Tuesday put the final count at nearly 100 dead.
(Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)