Ukraine crisis: President Yanukovych and the opposition sign deal to hold early elections. But are they listening on the streets?

A ‘peace deal’ between opposition leaders and the President offers hope of an end to Ukraine’s bloody crisis. But the guns have yet to fall silent

Kiev

Ukraine has taken a step back from the abyss with the signing of an agreement between the government and the opposition aimed at ending the strife which had threatened to tear the country apart.

The deal came after intense international pressure following days of violence leaving more than 70 people dead, hundreds injured and fears of a slide into civil war. Draconian emergency powers taken by the government of Viktor Yanukovych will be rescinded within 48 hours, a coalition administration will be formed in 10 days and fresh elections will be held by December – three months before they are scheduled.

In a day of dramatic developments, the country’s Parliament also voted to release Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister, who is serving a seven-year jail sentence on charges of abuse of power. President Yanukovych, her implacable adversary, has refused repeated requests by the European Union to free her on medical grounds.

MPs, emboldened by Mr Yanukovych’s seeming climbdown, repealed, by 310 votes to 54, the offence under which Mrs Tymoshenko was convicted and chanted “Free Yulia!” “Free Yulia!” after the count. There was no immediate reaction from the government and it was not certain if and when she will be released; but the parliamentary initiative was being viewed as another symbolic blow against the power of the current ruling elite.

The deal on the constitution came after a night of tough negotiations organised by European Union foreign ministers, with warnings that failure to agree would lead to dire consequences. One of the brokers, Radek Sikorski of Poland, was heard telling a protest leader “If you don’t support this deal you will have martial law, the army will come in, you will all be dead.”

But, although most of the main opposition politicians endorsed the agreement, there was rejection from hard-line nationalists and street activists. Dmytro Yarosh, an official of the Right Sector movement maintained that Mr Yanukovych had to go: “The criminal regime has not yet realised the gravity of its evil-doing; we need justice for all those people killed”. Andriy Paruby, a commander of self-defence volunteers, insisted that any agreement was meaningless: “There’s a third power in Ukraine – I am talking about Russia. So Yanukovych can sign anything he likes, but the snipers could still get a different order.”

Protesters shape a defence line in Kiev, Ukraine Protesters shape a defence line in Kiev, Ukraine (EPA) Gunfire broke out at the centre of the protest, Independence Square, soon afterwards; it was unclear who was shooting at whom. The police claimed: “Those taking part in mass disorder opened fire on officers and tried to burst through to the Parliament building”. Later armed police themselves burst into Parliament, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, an opposition leader reported, but had been forced out.

However, the mood among the thousands still gathered at Kiev’s Independence Square, or Maidan, was relatively relaxed, in sharp contrast to the fear and anger of the day before when they had to carry away the dead and injured, victims of live rounds fired by the police.

A protester manning a barricade in Kiev yesterday A protester manning a barricade in Kiev yesterday (Getty Images) Read more:

Bloodshed on Europe's doorstep as EU tries to stop killing

The protesters kept their barricades up; the riot police were noticeable by their absence, the only officers in view a group who had defected from Lviv, in the strongly anti-Russian, pro-European Union west of the country. A group marched through, yellow and blue ribands, the national colours, tied on their sleeves, to applause from the crowd. “We’re Ukrainians, we’re with you,” one of the men in uniform shouted to renewed cheers. Flowers were placed around photographs of “martyrs”. One, 21-year-old Olesya Zhukovskaya, who on Thursday had tweeted, “I am dying” after being shot in the neck, had survived. “I am alive! Thank you to everyone who supported and prayed for me,” she tweeted yesterday.

Protesters walk and stand near a burning bus at the Institutskaya Street close to the central Independence Square in Kiev Protesters walk and stand near a burning bus at the Institutskaya Street close to the central Independence Square in Kiev (Getty Images) Five miles from the Maidan, the sunlight was kept out by drawn curtains in the room where Andrei lay with a bloodied bandage over a gunshot wound to his shoulder. The 24-year-old teacher had been initially treated at the Hotel Ukraine, which was turned into an emergency ward; but he and his family decided it would be too much of a risk for him to go to a hospital.

“They [the authorities] know me. In an ordinary hospital they could easily pick me up. I have friends who have disappeared. I don’t want to join them,” he winced.

Andrei was in the apartment of a friend of the family. Another friend, Anichka, a doctor, had come to check on him. “Luckily it is a clean wound and it was not his head, or chest or neck. It’s lucky that Andrei is alive. But he cannot stay here for too long; there is danger of infection in a place which is not sanitised,” she pointed out.

But Andrei was the third injured person Anichka had visited at a private home; distrust of President Yanukovych’s security forces runs deep. But does not the new agreement include an amnesty? “You cannot trust the devil. He is just trying to buy time with this deal.”

Opposition protesters build barricades overnight Opposition protesters build barricades overnight (Reuters) The deal calls for the protesters to leave the buildings they had occupied and camps they had set up, as well as hand over their weapons. Yuriy Dovoshenko, who had been on Independence Square most days for a month, was adamant: “We will start leaving [public premises] when we are convinced that the regime actually means what it says; we have been let down by Yanukovych too many times in the past.”

“As for weapons, they can have this,” he continued, pointing at a wooden club he was carrying. “We can get the things necessary to defend the people when the time comes; we cannot allow them to shoot down people like animals as they had been doing.”

Oleksandr Yakimenko, the head of the security service, SBU, claimed that 1,500 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition had been recovered, but he acknowledged that arms depots had been emptied by protesters in many parts of the country. The police had been disarmed in centres in the west.

“Anyone who thinks this is all over and everyone will go home and forgive Yanukovych is a fool” said Mr Dovochenko. “We want to bring real changes to this country and, for that, we will fight if we have to.”

News
people
Sport
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer Trustee opportunities now available at The Society for Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Volunteer your expertise as Tr...

Early Years Educator

£68 - £73 per day + Competitive rates of pay based on experience: Randstad Edu...

Nursery Nurse

£69 - £73 per day + Competitive London rates of pay: Randstad Education Group:...

Primary KS1 NQTs required in Lambeth

£117 - £157 per day + Competitive London rates: Randstad Education Group: * Pr...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam