News / Europe

US: Ukraine Agreement 'Very, Very Fragile'

Anti-government protesters rest next to a barricade in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 21, 2014.
Anti-government protesters rest next to a barricade in Independence Square in Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 21, 2014.
VOA NewsRFE/RL
The United States says the deal between Ukraine's president and the opposition ending the country's political crisis is "very, very fragile" and needs global support.

A State Department official said Friday this will be a "tough sell" to the opposition in the streets because of the violence and deaths.

President Barack Obama telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday to talk about Ukraine. The official said both agree on the need to quickly implement the deal and encourage all sides to avoid violence.

The official said Putin affirmed that Russia wants to be part of the implementation process. He also talked about the need to stabilize the Ukrainian economy.

A U.N. spokesperson said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon phoned Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to personally welcome the agreement. The official said Ban commends the spirit of compromise.

Ukraine's opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko, Arseny Yatsenyuk and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L-R) address to media after signing an EU-mediated peace deal with President Viktor Yanukovych, Feb. 21, 2013.Ukraine's opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko, Arseny Yatsenyuk and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L-R) address to media after signing an EU-mediated peace deal with President Viktor Yanukovych, Feb. 21, 2013.
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Ukraine's opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko, Arseny Yatsenyuk and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L-R) address to media after signing an EU-mediated peace deal with President Viktor Yanukovych, Feb. 21, 2013.
Ukraine's opposition leaders Vitaly Klitschko, Arseny Yatsenyuk and German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (L-R) address to media after signing an EU-mediated peace deal with President Viktor Yanukovych, Feb. 21, 2013.
Yanukovych and opposition leaders signed a deal Friday that returns the country back to the 2004 constitution, limiting presidential powers. The deal also includes setting up a coalition government and early elections.

Foreign ministers from France, Germany, and Poland helped broker the deal.

Protests erupted in Ukraine in November when Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties to Russia.

The protests began peacefully, but sank into violence earlier this month, leaving about 100 people dead, including some protesters shot in the head by police snipers.

The deal would also replace Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko, who the opposition blames for the deaths of protesters. It amends the criminal code to allow for the release of release of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison.

Ukraine is split among those in the east who favor ties with Russia, and those in the west who lean towards the European Union.

Obama is downplaying suggestions that Ukraine is a battlefield in a new Cold War with Russia. He said this week that the U.S. wants to make sure the people of Ukraine are able to make their own decision about the future.

A State Department official said the U.S, Europe, Russia, and Ukraine all have shared interests.

Opposition not completely satisfied

Just before the deal was inked Friday, another EU mediator, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, posted on Twitter: "We are about to sign. Good compromise for Ukraine. Gives peace a chance. Opens the way to reform and to Europe. Poland and the EU support it."

However VOA's Ukranian service reporter Ruslan Deynychenko who is in Kyiv said some protesters are not completely satisfied with the deal. One person he spoke with said " I don't want the elections to be delayed until December. I think the people have already suffered so much that I want elections to take place in a month or two, but not in December."  Another protestor told Deynychenko "the bloodshed will not end, Yanukovych must immediately resign.  Everyone on the Maidan wants this and almost everyone in the country feels this way."

Deynychenko says opposition leaders who signed the agreement are aware of the deep distrust between the opposition and the government.

"They understand the concerns [about] this agreement and they understand that it is not very popular among their supporters, first of all," he said. "But they say this is the only way to protect people on Maidan from violence, to stop the violence."

Russia reacts

Earlier this week, Putin, sent his human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, to Ukraine to help mediate the talks between the Ukrainian government and opposition. The Russian president has been a staunch supporter of Yanukovych.

The Reuters news agency Friday quoted one of the EU diplomats who helped broker the deal, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski, as saying that Russia played a "constructive role" in achieving agreement in Ukraine.

Still, Russia's Foreign Ministry on Friday said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov had "resolutely condemned the actions of radicals" - an apparent reference to Ukrainian opposition activists - in a telephone conversation Friday with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. Lavrov said they bore the "principal responsibility" for the violence in Ukraine.

A ministry statement said Lavrov and Ashton had discussed the deal "and the prospects for its implementation in the conditions of continuing activity by extremist forces'', suggesting Moscow had doubts it could succeed.

WATCH: RFE/RL's Live Stream from Kyiv


Gunshots fired

Meanwhile, police who had been guarding the Ukrainian parliament building in Kyiv left the area Friday afternoon. Earlier, shots were reportedly fired near the Ukrainian capital's Independence Square, the epicenter of the anti-government protests. The Ukrainian government blamed the gunshots on protesters.

Ukraine suffered its bloodiest day since Soviet times on Thursday as battles erupted in central Kyiv between riot police and anti-government protesters. Dozens of people were killed, some by government sniper fire, with some reports putting the single day death toll over 70.

Hundreds of others were reported wounded. 

Elsewhere, television footage from the western city of Lviv showed scenes of chaos, as anti-government protesters firebombed government buildings and some police declined to intervene.

  • Anti-government protesters shout "Glory to the Ukraine" as they man a barricade at Independence Square in Kyiv, Feb. 21, 2014.
  • A fire burns at the barricades on the outskirts of Independence Square in Kyiv, Feb. 21, 2014.
  • An anti-government protester sits and rest on a barricade at Independence Square in Kyiv, Feb. 21, 2014.
  • An anti-government protester stands atop a barricade at Independence Square in Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014.
  • Activists pay respects to protesters killed in clashes with police, Independence Square, Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • Activists pay respects to anti-government protesters killed in clashes with riot police in Kyiv's Independence Square, Feb. 20, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters climb a barricade in central Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • Activists reinforce the barricades in Kyiv's Independence Square, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • Anti-government protesters build barricades around Independence Square during clashes with riot police, Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • An anti-government protester holds a firearm as he mans a barricade on the outskirts of Independence Square, Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • An anti-government protester wounded by firearms is carried to a makeshift clinic in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • An anti-government protester prepares to throw a car tire into the flames lit by protesters, Independence Square, Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014.

The White House said Thursday it was "outraged by the images of Ukrainian security forces firing automatic weapons on their own people." The U.S. statement called on Yanukovych "to immediately withdraw his security forces from downtown Kyiv and to respect the right of peaceful protest." It also urged protesters to "express themselves peacefully" and pressed the Ukrainian military "not to get involved in a conflict that can and should be resolved by political means."

Sanctions

In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers agreed in emergency session Thursday to impose sanctions on Ukrainian officials deemed responsible for orchestrating the violence in the capital. The measures would include visa bans, asset freezes and restrictions on the export of anti-riot gear to the Ukrainian government.  Washington imposed similar sanctions Wednesday.

The talks in Kyiv were brokered by the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Poland. The president's web site said Russia was also involved in the talks.

Yanukovych and the leaders of anti-government protests had agreed on a truce Wednesday, saying it was aimed at "ending the bloodshed and stabilizing the situation... in the interests of social peace." The truce dissolved within hours.

Anti-government protests erupted in November, after Yanukovych backed away from a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

Some information for this report provided by Reuters

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Comments
     
by: Ciaran Mulcahy. from: Dublin, Ireland.
February 22, 2014 8:34 AM
At various times since 1989, Western Members of NATO., have offered Russia full membership of NATO..

The offer is genuine.

It may well be that it would be more attractive to all former Warsaw-Pact member-states to offer the total integration of N.A.T.O.and it's allied structures with all former Warsaw-Pact members and structures, with immediate effect.

What's important is an immediate and total end to the rivalry of the past.

The events in Ukraine presents all nations with this urgent opportunity.

If this opportunity is fully taken advantage of without the slightest hesitation, it will no longer be possible to say and believe that the world might choose the 100th. anniversary year of the start of World War One as the year in which to commence yet another universal war.

by: A DONG from: Vietnam
February 21, 2014 9:05 PM
The government and the protestors must bear in mind that your poor economic records have led to that situation. If you two are struggling for a prosperous Ukraine you must listen and respect each other ideas or you will plunge your country into a civil war. Ukraine is a civilized society so the people there should not act barbarously as in Medieval Age. What is good for one half of the population may not good for the other half. Joining the EU is necessary but you cannot deny that Russia is an extremely important neighbour and partner. So both are very important to you! If you only care about the interests of your own group. The chaos and disorder will repeat again and again and we have every right to classify Ukaine's people as the most humble one on earth. God save Ukraine!

by: Anonymous
February 21, 2014 5:12 PM
Now if only bashar al assad would do the same for Syria, instead he will be captured as a criminal in the end.

Good on the signing of this deal.

by: Paul Nicholas Boylan from: California
February 21, 2014 3:03 PM
The tree of Freedom is too often fed with the blood of martyrs.

Good work, my brothers and sisters. And good luck. Your work has only just begun.

by: JKF2 from: GREAT NORTH (Canada)
February 21, 2014 1:25 PM
It is good to see that the terrible situation in the Ukraine is being de-escalated. I do hope, that all those with arms, withdraw and peace is returned; I also hope that no further destruction of civilian/gvmt structures takes place. Almost 100 dead, and potentially over 1000 wounded, is a horrendous price to pay. Confidence on the people and the people's institutions needs to be rebuilt, a big task for the unity gvmt.

The EU needs to step up, and help Ukraine to restore its economy; this is not just about money, but technical experts are required to help the economic recovery, and all restructure/upgrade all the associated governance aspects. If the economic situation does not get better, more conflict and adversity can be prediicted.

by: Dr. Masta Marina from: Finland
February 21, 2014 10:58 AM
by now, America should have understood that the "Leaders of the opposition" as they call these dumb idiots (which are Fascist organizations just like Al Qaida, Hamas, Hizbullah or a Neo Nazi organizations) have absolutely no control over events in Ukraine.
But hey, America under the Kenyan defect stopped resembling America long time ago...
In Response

by: Jerry Duke from: USA
February 21, 2014 2:38 PM
Your a doctor? A doctor of what... amentia? Stick to what you know best...that's not much of nothing, judging by your comments.

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