Ukraine protests: President Yanukovych agrees 'truce' with opposition as EU ministers prepare to discuss sanctions

‘Yanukovych has blood  on his hands,’ says  Swedish Foreign Minister


Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych announced that he had agreed a truce with opposition leaders on Wednesday night, amid global outrage over the deaths of 28 people in the government’s offensive against protesters.

Fires continued to burn overnight in Kiev's Independence Square, but no violence has been reported.

EU ministers are due to meet today to agree a package of sanctions and it was not immediately clear what effect the truce would have on those negotiations. Foreign ministers from France, Germany and Poland will meet with President Yanukovych this morning before flying to Brussels to join the rest of the EU ministers.

Mr Yanukovych said he and the opposition leaders had agreed to try to stabilise “the situation in the state in the interests of social peace”.

This came shortly after the president sacked the head of the armed forces, Col Gen Volodymyr Zamana, in a surprise move. He was replaced by the commander of Ukraine’s navy, Admiral Yuriy Ilyin, according to the president’s website. No official explanation was given for the move.

Swathes of central Kiev were transformed into fiery battlefields on Tuesday when police attacked the anti-government protest camps which have occupied Independence Square for nearly three months.

As violence stretched into Wednesday evening, explosions from police stun grenades echoed throughout the city centre and tear gas and black smoke filled the air. Protesters hurled fire bombs and rocks at riot police as they were encircled. Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich

Dozens of injured protesters, many with bloody head wounds, were taken to makeshift medical centres, with more than 600 injured in total on both sides. The 28 confirmed dead include 10 police officers and one journalist.

A statement on the Ukrainian health ministry website said 88 police, six journalists and four foreigners were among the 287 hospitalised. Opposition activists, who have been treating wounded protesters in a downtown monastery, say the number injured is actually much higher.

The ferocity of the police assault provoked the strongest international criticism yet, with EU leaders promising sanctions after months of tiptoeing around the issue to avoid sending Mr Yanukovych deeper into Russia’s embrace. It was Mr Yanukovych’s decision to ditch a trade pact with the EU and turn to the Kremlin for economic aid that sparked the unrest.

“It was with utter dismay that we have been watching developments over the last 24 hours in Ukraine,” said Jose Manuel Barroso, the European Commission President. He vowed to pursue “targeted measures against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force”.

Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister said the bloc had reached a consensus on sanctions. An extraordinary meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels today is expected to formalise exactly who will be affected by which measures.

While sanctions such as assets freezes can take months to take effect, visa and travel bans can be implemented quickly. The European Investment Bank has already suspended loans to Ukraine, and the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, said Washington was also considering sanctions.

Mr Kerry said he was hoping for a peaceful solution to the crisis. But with the opposition demanding the resignation of the government and Mr Yanukovych standing firm, there appeared to be little appetite for compromise in Kiev.

The Ukrainian President and his allies in Moscow have accused the opposition of trying to seize power by force. But many European leaders blamed the authorities for the escalating violence and said riot police should pull back.

President Yanukovych “has blood on his hands,” said Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt. An EU spokesman refused to say whether the Ukrainian President would be the target of sanctions, but French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said: “There may be a whole scale of sanctions, including personal sanctions.”

However, analysts warned that the punitive measures may be too little, too late, however,. Until now, the EU has focused on offering financial incentives to Kiev. It has been competing with less nuanced pressure from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who is keen to see the protests swiftly brought under control so a pro-Moscow regime remains in place. A wounded protester is evacuated during clashes in Independence Square A wounded protester is evacuated during clashes in Independence Square

“If targeted measures had been used earlier, the EU might have been able to speak up more clearly and more robustly now,” James Sherr, an associate fellow at the Chatham House think-tank, told The Independent.

Defending its approach, an EU spokesperson said that it had been careful throughout the political crisis to respect “the European ambitions that Ukraine has” and to try to offer a path to greater integration “which would enable the Ukraine in the longer term to introduce a series of political and economic reforms”.


Russia kept up the pressure on Wednesday, with President Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling the events of the past 48 hours a “coup attempt”. A Foreign Ministry statement blamed interference from Europe for the escalation of violence, saying politicians had “turned a blind eye to the aggressive actions of radical forces in Ukraine”.

While the public face of the opposition is the former boxer and moderate, Vitali Klitschko, and allies of the jailed former prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, nationalist and far-right groups have also been active around Independence Square.

The scale of the violence has provoked fears that the nation of 46 million could be heading into civil war, with much of the east still backing the government and favouring close ties with Russia.

The Ukrainian security service said that they were launching an “anti-terrorist” operation after claiming that protesters had seized hundreds of firearms. The Defence Ministry warned that soldiers could be deployed.

On Wednesday night, protesters remained in control of about two-thirds of Independence Square, also known as the Maidan. Despite the city’s metro system and many bus routes being shut down for a second consecutive day,  protesters continued to spill on to the square.

Dozens appeared ready to go to battle, wielding baseball bats, metal pipes and an array of makeshift weapons. Several were carrying what appeared to be air rifles.

“We are revolutionaries, and this is a revolution,” Vitaliy Moroz, a 21-year-old Kiev university student, told The Independent as he prepared another Molotov cocktail. “We are fighting for our future.”

Nearby, pensioner Olga Shevchenko gathered paving stones dug up by protesters and passed them to an elderly man next to her, sending them up to the front lines where others were heaving them into the police ranks.

She said she left her home with her husband in Ternopil Oblast in western Ukraine and joined the protest movement in late January. “I can’t throw these stones, but I can carry them,” she said.

Club legend Paul Scholes is scared United could disappear into 'the wilderness'
A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Dawkins: 'There’s a very interesting reason why a prince could not turn into a frog – it's statistically too improbable'
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, Graduate, SQL, VBA)

£45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Analyst (Financial Services, ...

Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Perl, Bash, SQL)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Application Support Engineer (C++, .NET, VB, Per...

C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB6, WinForms)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: C# .NET Software Developer (Client-Side, SQL, VB...

C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

£40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home