Ukraine president calls for elections, protesters' council backs deal
Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich announced plans for early elections today in a series of concessions to his pro-European opponents, as a council representing anti-government protesters in Kiev backed a draft agreement on ending the country's crisis but set conditions, an opposition leader was quoted as saying.
Interfax news agency quoted Oleh Tyahnibok, a far-right leader, as saying the deal should stand only if there were guarantees that the present interior minister and prosecutor-general were not included in any interim government.
A European Union source said the council had voted to back the draft deal after talks with two EU foreign ministers. The protesters' backing had emerged as the main obstacle to the deal being signed.
Russian-backed Yanukovich, under pressure to quit from mass demonstrations in central Kiev, promised a national unity government and constitutional change to reduce his powers, as well as the presidential polls.
He made the announcement in a statement on the presidential website without waiting for the deal with opposition leaders after at least 77 people were killed in the worst violence since Ukraine became independent 22 years ago.
"There are no steps that we should not take to restore peace in Ukraine," he said. "I announce that I am initiating early elections."
"I am also starting the process of a return to the 2004 constitution with a rebalancing of powers towards a parliamentary republic," he said. "I call for the start of procedures for forming a government of national unity."