.
.
.
.

Ukraine’s president and opposition sign agreement to end violence

Earlier on the same day, President Victor Yanukovich announced plans for early elections aimed at stopping the violence

Published: Updated:

Ukraine’s embattled President Viktor Yanukovich and three main opposition leaders have signed an European Union-brokered agreement to resolve deadly unrest in the capital of Kiev, Reuters reported on Friday.

Soon after the signing, the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Poland on Friday commended the different parties in Ukraine for their “courage and commitment” in signing a deal to settle the political crisis, while European Union council President Herman Van Rompuy called for the country’s rivals to turn “words into deeds.”

Earlier on the same day, Yanukovich, backed by Russian President Vladmir Putin, announced plans for early elections aimed at stopping the violence that has left at least 77 dead, a major element of an EU-mediated peace deal which Poland said protesters occupying Kiev’s Independence square had accepted.

Yanukovich, who had been under pressure to quit from the mass demonstrations in the capital - offered a series of concessions to his pro-European opponents, including a national unity government and constitutional change to reduce his powers, in addition to the presidential polls.

Early statement

Without waiting for a signed agreement with opposition leaders, the Ukrainian leader made the announcement on the presidential website.

“There are no steps that we should not take to restore peace in Ukraine,” he said. “I announce that I am initiating early elections.”

Yanukovich said the country would go back to a previous constitution under which parliament had greater control over the composition of the government, including the prime minister.

“I am also starting the process of a return to the 2004 constitution with a rebalancing of powers towards a parliamentary republic,” he said, in comments carried by Reuters. “I call for the start of procedures for forming a government of national unity.”

No set date

In the statement, the Ukrainian leader set no date for the presidential election, which had been due in March 2015.

The severity of the crisis has also had a pronounced economic impact.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor’s cut Ukraine’s credit rating for the second time in three weeks on Friday, citing the increased risk of default.

On Thursday, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels imposed targeted sanctions on Ukraine and threatened more if the authorities failed to restore order.

The violence which has swept Ukraine is the worst the country has seen since it became independent from the Soviet Union 22 years ago.