DAVID MDZINARISHVILI / Reuters
Police officers from Lviv, Ukraine, appear on a stage after joining protesters in Kiev’s Independence Square on Friday.
Dozens of Ukrainian Police Defect, Vow to Protect Protesters
By James Novogrod
KIEV, Ukraine – About 40 police officers defected to Ukraine’s opposition and marched into the heart of the protest encampment in the Kiev on Friday, the day after violent clashes between demonstrators and security forces killed dozens.
“We wear this uniform, and in this uniform I made a vow to be a servant of the Ukrainian people,” said Col. Vasyl Krykovskiy, the head of police in the district of Lviv. “I just have to be here and protect these people.”
Reupping shot from earlier of the 40 police officers from western Ukraine marching through Kiev to join opposition: pic.twitter.com/Vz2Fm53Tvb
-James Novogrod (@JamieNBCNews) February 21, 2014
Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images an hour
Ukraine President Backs Down, Signs Peace Pact with Protesters
By Maria Stromova, Alexander Smith, James Novogrod and Jason Cumming
KIEV, Ukraine — President Viktor Yanukovych signed a deal with Ukraine’s main opposition leaders on Friday brokered to end the deadly violence that put the country on the brink of civil war.
He agreed to early elections and to surrender some of his powers after 77 people were killed as a geopolitical tug-of-war over whether Ukraine should embrace the West or Russia turned violent this week. (The agreement can be read in full by clicking here.)
Yanukovych said he offered the concessions to “restore peace and to avoid further victims of the stand-off” and addressed his statement to “compatriots.”
The deal states that:
- Within 48 hours Ukraine must revert to its 2004 constitution, meaning some of Yanukovych’s powers will be given to the parliament. This was passed by lawmakers shortly after the deal was finalized.
- A coalition government will be formed in the next 10 days and presidential elections will be brought forward from March 2015 until no later than December.
- Illegal weapons must be handed in and there will also be an investigation into the deadly violence that has dominated Kiev this week.
The agreement was signed by the three main opposition leaders, including former boxing star Vitali Klitschko. However, it was almost immediately rejected by the extremist Right Sector party, which has been blamed for much of the civilian violence since protests in Kiev’s Independence Square began in November.
“We are inclined to consider Yanukovych’s statement as another whitewash,” Right Sector said in a statement. “National revolution continues.”
ANDRIY MOSIENKO / Ukrainian government via EPA
The agreement came after overnight negotiations with opposition leaders, European Union ministers and Russia.
But photographs of the document showed that the signature of Vladimir Lukin, special envoy of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was missing. Reuters confirmed that Lukin did not sign the deal and said there was no immediate explanation for his absence.
One of the European foreign ministers who helped broker the deal, Poland’s Radosław Sikorski, said the agreement was a “good compromise.”