Ukraine’s president buckles
KIEV, Ukraine — In a fast-moving day that aimed to reshape Ukraine’s political destiny, protest leaders and the beleaguered president agreed Friday to form a new government and host an early election.
Parliament slashed the powers of President Viktor Yanukovych and voted to free his rival, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, from prison.
It was a crucial shift in Ukraine’s monthslong standoff between Yanukovych and protesters angry he abandoned closer ties with Europe in favor of a bailout deal with longtime ruler Russia.
If it sticks, the ambitious, European-mediated agreement could be a major breakthrough in a crisis about Ukraine’s identity. The standoff worsened sharply this week and left scores dead and hundreds wounded in the worst violence the country has seen since it became independent in 1991.
But not all sides embraced the deal. A Russian mediator refused to sign it, and a senior Russian lawmaker criticized it as being crafted for the West.
And at the sprawling protest encampment in central Kiev, anger percolated among the thousands massed Friday night. Hardened Ukrainian protesters angry about police violence said they were determined to stand their ground until Yanukovych steps down.
Protesters booed opposition figures who took to a stage Friday evening to present the deal. One radical speaker threatened to go on an armed offensive if the opposition doesn’t demand the president’s resignation by this morning. Others started chanting “Death to the criminal!” referring to Yanukovych.
The agreement signed Friday calls for presidential elections scheduled for March 2015 to be no later than December. Many protesters said December is too late; they want Yanukovych out immediately.
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