After days of bloody street battles in central Kiev that may have left as many as 100 people dead, protest leaders signed an agreement Friday with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to end the stand-off. The deal curtails the powers of the president, sets the stage for a national unity government to be formed within 10 days, and establishes that constitutional reform will begin immediately. Upon the adoption of a new constitution, presidential elections will be held, no later than December 2014.
But the very conditions that have made this agreement possible -- a level of violence on the streets of Kiev that had been previously unimaginable -- also places this agreement on extremely shaky ground. The agreement pointedly does not call for Yanukovych, the protesters' hated enemy, to step down. Moreover, it's far from clear that opposition leaders were eager to sign this agreement. Just have a look at the video below, which shows Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski dressing down a protest leader during a break in the negotiations. Sikorski, clearly frustrated, snaps at the man: "If you don't support this you will have martial law, you'll have the army, you'll all be dead."
That protest leaders are unwilling to back down should come as no surprise: The agreement forces them to sit down across the table from the man whose security forces have killed dozens of their comrades.
Perhaps worse, the Russian representative at the talks, Vladimir Lukin, refused to sign the agreement. "I am upset that the Russian are not signatories. I am really upset," Arsenij Yatsenyuk, one of three opposition leaders who signed the deal, told the New York Times. As you can see in the photo of the signed agreement below, Lukin's signature is painfully absent from the final version of the document.
The action now appears to have shifted to the Ukrainian parliament, where on Friday lawmakers voted to allow the release of the jailed opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko. Earlier in the day, parliament sacked the interior minister, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, who is widely seen as responsible for the brutal tactics used by police in their effort to clear protesters from central Kiev. On Thursday, Parliament voted to strip Yanukovych, the president, of his ability to declare martial law.
But even as the opposition moves to curtail the president's power in Parliament, the text of the agreement to end the stand-off still hovers in the background. That agreement requires "both parties" to "understake serious efforts for the normalisation of life in the cities and villages by wihtdrawing from administrative and publc buildings and unblocking streets, city parks, and squares." With this quasi-victory in hand will the protesters on the Maidan be willing to pack up and leave the square? Sounds unlikely. And what does that mean for the agreement?
For the curious, here is the full text of that agreement.
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