World News

Ukraine President and Opposition Leaders Sign Deal to End Crisis

Ukraine's president and three opposition leaders signed a deal Friday to end the political crisis that erupted in violence this week, leaving scores dead.

The agreement's provisions include returning to the 2004 constitution, which would decrease the powers of the presidency and increase those of the parliament, setting up a national unity government within 10 days and holding an early presidential election later this year.

The deal was signed after President Viktor Yanukovych bowed to opposition pressure and announced he would hold early elections, form a coalition government, and make constitutional changes.

His announcement followed all-night talks between representatives of his government and the opposition, brokered by the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Poland.

Shortly after the agreement was signed Friday, Ukraine's parliament voted to restore the 2004 constitution.

It also voted to remove Interior Minister Vitali Zakharchenko, who is among the officials the opposition holds responsible for the killing of dozens of anti-government protesters, and to amend the country's criminal code in a way that would permit the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison.

The White House welcomed the agreement.

"We support the efforts of all those who negotiated this agreement, commend the courageous opposition leaders who recognized the need for compromise, and offer the support of the United States in its implementation," it said in a statement Friday. "Now, the focus must be on concrete action to implement this agreement, which we will be monitoring closely."

U.S. officials said President Barack Obama would discuss the agreement with Russian President Vladimir Putin by telephone Friday.

Earlier this week, Mr. 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 President 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.

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.



Ruslan Deynychenko of VOA's Ukrainian Service, who witnessed this week's violence in Kyiv, said Friday's agreement might be hard to sell to anti-government demonstrators who saw comrades killed.



"The problem is that people on Maidan, protesters, they don't think it is enough because they demand the immediate resignation of [the] president, because they believe he is responsible for orders to kill peaceful protesters."



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

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs