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 Draconian emergency powers taken by the government of Viktor Yanukovych will be rescinded within 48 hours, a coalition administration will be formed in 10 days and fresh elections will be held by December – three months before they are scheduled.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MPs, emboldened by Mr Yanukovych’s seeming climbdown, repealed, by 310 votes to 54, the offence under which Mrs Tymoshenko was convicted and chanted “Free Yulia!”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

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
News
videoWatch Lynda Bellingham's tragic final Loose Women appearance
Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 pose for Children in Need 2001
music
Arts and Entertainment
'Right Here' singer Jess Glynne is nominated for Best Newcomer at the MOBO Awards 2014
musicExclusive: Jess Glynne hits out at 'ridiculous' criticism of white artists nominated for Mobo Awards
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Russell Brand has written a book of political analysis called Revolution
books

Review: Witty banalities aside, the comedian has an authentic voice

Arts and Entertainment
Separated at birth? Frank Sivero (left) claims The Simpsons based Mafia character Louie on his Goodfellas character
arts + entsFrank Sivero sues Simpsons studio over allegedly basing mobster character on Frank Carbone
News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

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

HLTA - Higher Level Teaching Assistant

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Science Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Science teacher requi...

Deputy Head of Science

£36000 - £60000 per annum: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client are a we...

IT Teacher

£22000 - £32000 per annum + TLR: Randstad Education Southampton: Our client is...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London