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Breakthrough? Ukrainian President, Opposition Leaders Reach Deal

We're updating this post as the day continues.

In what could be a major move toward ending the violence in the streets of his capital, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and leaders of the anti-government opposition reached agreement Friday on a deal to hold new elections, form a unity government and restore a constitution drafted in 2004.

Some details have yet to be spelled out. But the BBC sums up the news this way:

"Yanukovych has agreed to an early presidential election as part of a deal to end the long-running crisis. He said he had also agreed to a national unity government, and to make constitutional changes reducing the power of the president. The compromise came after hours of talks with the opposition leaders.

"The opposition has not spoken about the deal and it remains unclear whether protesters will back it."

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, who is in Kiev, tells our Newscast Desk that along with the formation of a unity government and new elections by December, Yanukovych has agreed to "constitutional changes to reduce the power of the presidency."

There's "a great deal of skepticism" among protesters about the deal, and it may not satisfy many of them, Soraya adds.

But by early afternoon in Kiev, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko was telling Germany's Bild that "we will sign the deal." Shortly after that, there was word from a Reuters correspondent who witnessed the event that Yanukovych and three opposition leaders had signed the deal.

Also on hand to watch the signing were two of the three European Union foreign ministers who had helped broker the deal, Reuters reported. One of those diplomats, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, issued a statement following the signing on behalf of himself and the ministers of France and Poland:

"The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany and Poland welcome the signing of the agreement on the Settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, commend the parties for their courage and commitment to the agreement and call for an immediate end to all violence and confrontation in Ukraine."

The BBC reported that "the three opposition leaders who signed the deal at the presidential palace are: Vitali Klitschko of the pro-EU Udar movement, Arseniy Yatsenyuk of the main opposition Fatherland and Oleh Tyahnybok of the far-right Svoboda."

Soraya says it is "amazing what has happened overnight" in Kiev, where she's been reporting from this week. Just 24 hours earlier, as she had said Thursday, it was "absolute chaos" in the city's Independence Square. Clashes between security forces and protesters left dozens of people dead. More than 70 have been killed since violence erupted Tuesday.

By midday Friday in Kiev, as Soraya reported onMorning Edition, much of the "debris and chaos had been swept up and swept away." One dramatic moment: the arrival of police officers from the city of Lviv. They announced they were there to support the protesters, Soraya said.

The scene is "180 degrees different," Soraya added.

As we've reported before, the anti-Yanukovych protests that have been raging for weeks were sparked in part by the president's rejection of a pending trade treaty with the European Union and his embrace of more aid from Russia. Protesters have also been drawn into the streets to demonstrate against government corruption.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Even as word was emerging about a possible end to the crisis, anti-government protesters remained in Kiev's Independence Square early Friday.
Bulent Kilic / AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images
Even as word was emerging about a possible end to the crisis, anti-government protesters remained in Kiev's Independence Square early Friday.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.