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Peace deal to stop Kiev violence agreed

21 February 2014


On the barricades: a priest stands at Independence Square, on Friday morning, as the Ukrainian presidency said that it has negotiated a deal between police and protesters

On the barricades: a priest stands at Independence Square, on Friday morning, as the Ukrainian presidency said that it has negotiated a deal between...

AFTER three days of violence between police and protesters in Independence Square, Kiev, a peace deal has been agreed by the Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders.

At least 77 people have been killed since a crackdown on demonstrators, who have been camped in the square for weeks, began on Tuesday. Many of those killed were shot by police snipers.

The agreement was announced by Mr Yanukovych on Friday morning, and promised early elections in December this year, and a return to a parliamentary model of government based on the 2004 constitution.

In a statement, he also said that a coalition "national unity government" with the opposition would be formed within ten days.

French, German, and Polish ministers have been negotiating between the opposition leaders and Mr Yanukovych's government to try to stop the violence.

For the deal to work, the parliamentary opposition must persuade the thousands of protesters in the square to agree to leave their barricades. They have been demanding Mr Yanukovych's immediate resignation.

One of the three main leaders of the protest movement, the former boxer Vitali Klitschko, said that the opposition was ready to sign the deal offered by Mr Yanukovych.

A truce was agreed on Wednesday, but by Thursday morning it had broken down and led to even bloodier clashes between the two sides. Doctors treating the injured said that most of the dead had single gunshot wounds to the head, neck, or chest, and appeared to have been shot by professional snipers.

As protesters sought to retake territory around the square they had lost to the police on Wednesday, they came under fire from the surrounding buildings. Some of the opposition have now armed themselves with pistols, hunting rifles, or guns taken from captured police.

The Ukrainian Interior Ministry said on Thursday evening that three policemen had died, 28 had been injured, and 67 captured by the protesters.

There were reports of chaos in Independence Square throughout Thursday as the injured and killed were dragged out of the firing line and into improvised field hospitals in nearby buildings.

The lobby of the hotel where most foreign journalists are staying has been filled with injured protesters as medics and volunteers attempted to treat their wounds. The bodies of those killed were identified, and then covered with blankets. Priests prayed for the living and the dead.

An Orthodox priest, Fr Nikolai Himaylo, told The Guardian: "I'm a witness to what has become a criminal state. Yanukovych cannot be forgiven. These boys are dying for freedom."

Alla Gedz, a member of the Anglican Christ Church in Kiev, part of the Church of England's diocese in Europe, told the Anglican Communion News Service she had seen horrific scenes. "I am not shocked any more when I see dead people, but can cry any time without any reason. Today, we saw how the dead were pulled out of St Michael's Cathedral and piled near those who died during the night.

 "We are very grateful for your prayers, because being in the midst of the revolution we do have supernatural peace in our hearts."

On Wednesday, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church called for an end to the fighting. In a statement, Metropolitan Anthony of Boryspol and Brovary said: "Since the beginning of the political crisis, and in the course of the entire period of this conflict, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church has more than once called for a halt of violence and a peaceful solution to the conflict. To our great regret, the voice of the Church has not been heard."

The country is divided between a largely pro-European west and the mostly pro-Russian east. Mr Yanukovych is strongly backed by President Putin and the Russian government.

The protests first began in November last year, when Mr Yanukovych pulled out of signing a trade and political deal with the EU at the last minute. There were signs, however, that the pro-Yanukovych movement was disintegrating after the violence meted out to protesters.

The Mayor of Kiev, Volodymyr Makeyenko - who was appointed by Mr Yanukovych - announced that he was leaving the President's Party of the Regions, and backed the protest movement.

Several other government MPs have also defected, as have the security services in parts of western Ukraine.


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