Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich said last night he had agreed a “truce” with opposition leaders, after street violence in which at least 26 people were killed, and a start to negotiations to end further bloodshed.
A statement on the presidential website said that, during talks with the three main opposition leaders, Yanukovich had agreed firstly a truce and secondly “the start to negotiations with the aim of ending bloodshed, and stabilising the situation in the state in the interests of social peace.”
The statement, issued on the eve of a visit by the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland and France, appeared to indicate that riot police who on Tuesday night advanced on to Kiev’s Independence Square would not take further steps to break up the encampment of protesters.
Former economy minister Arseny Yatseniuk, one of the opposition leaders, said on the website of his Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party: “The storming of the Maidan (Independence Square) which the authorities had planned today will not take place.
“A truce has been declared. The main thing is to protect human life.”
Yanukovich issued his statement after meeting Yatseniuk and the two other opposition leaders, boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko and far-right nationalist Oleh Tyahnibok.
As fires burned in central Kiev for a second night, the country’s embattled president replaced the chief of the armed forces and the military announced it could take part in a national anti-terrorist operation to restore order.
The escalation of violence has prompted the European Union to threaten sanctions against Ukrainian officials responsible for the bloodshed and triggered an angry rebuke from Moscow.
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