A statement said that the deal would be signed at noon local time (10am GMT) but gave no further details. The deal was not confirmed by the opposition or the three EU foreign ministers who had also been attending the negotiations.
Despite the presidential statement, a tweet from the Polish foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski had said that talks had broken down at 7.20am local time, with diplomatic sources telling Reuters that they had been “very difficult”.
The supposed deal came as the Ukrainian health ministry put the number of people killed in this week’s violence at 77, though opposition activists say the figure is over 100.
Yanukovych was “going to make concessions in order to restore peace,” Interfax Ukraine earlier quoted his spokeswoman Anna German as saying.
Support for the president appeared to be weakening, as reports said the army’s deputy chief of staff, Yury Dumansky, was resigning in “disagreement with the politics of pulling the armed forces into an internal civil conflict.” Late on Thursday, the Ukrainian parliament passed a measure that would prohibit an “anti-terrorist operation” threatened by Yanukovych to restore order, and called for all Interior Ministry troops to return to their bases.
But it was unclear how binding the move would be, as the mechanism for carrying it out would have to be developed by the president’s office and the Interior Ministry.
This morning, several thousand protesters milled around Independence Square, known as the Maidan, which earlier this week was rocked by street battles between protesters and police.
No visible police forces remained on the square, and volunteers walked freely to the protest camps to donate food and other packages. The scene in Kiev’s Independence Square on Friday morning
Yanukovych and the opposition protesters are locked in a battle over the identity of Ukraine, a nation of 46 million that has divided loyalties between Russia and the West. Parts of the country — mostly in its western cities — are in open revolt against Yanukovych’s central government, while many in eastern Ukraine back the president and favour strong ties with Russia, their former Soviet ruler.
Protesters across the country are also upset over corruption in Ukraine, the lack of democratic rights and the country’s ailing economy, which just barely avoided bankruptcy with a $15 billion aid infusion from Russia.
In Brussels, the 28-nation European Union decided in an emergency meeting yesterday to impose sanctions against those behind the violence in Ukraine, including a travel ban and an asset freeze against some government officials.
The White House said US Vice President Joe Biden spoke by telephone with Yanukovych on Thursday afternoon and made clear that the US is prepared to sanction those officials responsible for the violence.
Despite the violence, defiant protesters seemed determined to continue their push for Yanukovych’s resignation and early presidential and parliamentary elections.
“The price of freedom is too high. But Ukrainians are paying it,” Viktor Danilyuk, a 30-year-old protester, said yesterday. “We have no choice. The government isn’t hearing us.”
Yesterday was the deadliest day yet at the sprawling protest camp in Kiev. Snipers were seen shooting at protesters there, and video footage showed at least one sniper wearing a Ukraine riot police uniform.
One of the wounded, volunteer medic Olesya Zhukovskaya, sent out a brief Twitter message — “I’m dying” — after she was shot in the neck. Dr Oleh Musiy, the medical coordinator for the protesters, said she was in serious condition after undergoing surgery.
Opposition protesters build barricades overnight
Musiy told The Associated Press that at least 70 protesters were killed on Thursday and over 500 were wounded in the clashes.
In addition, three policemen were killed Thursday and 28 suffered gunshot wounds, Interior Ministry spokesman Serhiy Burlakov told the AP.
A statement on the website of the Health Ministry said 77 people had been killed between Tuesday morning, when the violence began, and this morning. The statement said 577 people had been wounded and 369 hospitalized.
There was no way to immediately verify any of the death tolls.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, along with his German and Polish counterparts, said after a five-hour meeting with Yanukovych and another with opposition leaders that they discussed new elections and a new government, but gave no details. The three resumed meeting with Yanukovych late last night.
Video footage on Ukrainian television showed shocking scenes yesterday of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid.
Protesters were also seen leading policemen, their hands held high, around the sprawling protest camp in central Kiev. The Interior Ministry said 67 police were captured in all. An opposition politician said they were being held in Kiev’s occupied city hall.
Interior Ministry members in plain-clothes are escorted out of Independence Square
German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama about the crisis yesteday evening. All three leaders agreed that a political solution needs to be found as soon as possible to prevent further bloodshed.
Saying the US was outraged by the violence, Obama urged Yanukovych in a statement to withdraw his forces from downtown Kiev immediately. He also said Ukraine should respect the right of protest and that protesters must be peaceful.
The US State Department on Thursday issued a statement warning citizens “to defer all non-essential travel to Ukraine due to the ongoing political unrest.”
The Kremlin issued a statement with Putin blaming radical protesters and voicing “extreme concern about the escalation of armed confrontation in Ukraine.”
The Russian leader called for an immediate end to bloodshed and for steps “to stabilize the situation and stop extremist and terrorist actions.” He also sent former Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin to Ukraine to act as a mediator.
Russia appeared increasingly frustrated with Yanukovych’s inability to find a way out of the crisis.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will “try to do our best” to fulfill its financial obligations to Ukraine, but indicated Moscow would hold back on further bailout installments until the crisis is resolved.
“We need partners that are in good shape and a Ukrainian government that is legitimate and effective,” he said.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press
Clashes In Ukraine Signal Escalation of US-EU Intervention
By Oliver Campbell & Peter Symonds
19 February, 2014
Violent clashes between police and protesters yesterday in Kiev mark an escalation of the campaign by the pro-Western opposition to oust Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. The opposition, backed by the United States and German governments, aims to install a far-right regime committed to integrating Ukraine within the European Union and implementing its demands for austerity measures.
Bloody street-fighting erupted when opposition protesters marched on parliament, demanding it pass a planned law to decrease Yanukovych’s powers. When the vote went against them, the opposition supporters attacked the headquarters of the ruling Party of the Regions. Clashes between police and protesters erupted and spread throughout the city.
The unrest has been the bloodiest since the pro-EU protests began some three months ago. Latest reports indicate that at least 19 people have been killed, including police and protesters. Hundreds, possibly thousands, have been injured, at least 200 people seriously.
The opposition demonstrators, many of whom are affiliated with the neo-fascist Svoboda party and other extreme right-wing groups, appeared to be heavily armed. One of the fascistic organisations involved, Right Sector, called for all those with arms to take them to Independence Square and engage in combat with the authorities.
Media footage shows anti-government protesters, some wearing helmets emblazoned with fascist symbols, firing rifles and small arms at riot police, as well as throwing molotov cocktails. During the storming of the Party of Regions headquarters, they killed at least one office worker. Several interior troops were reportedly taken as “prisoners” before government forces secured control of the building.
Opposition leaders called on supporters to continue fighting. Vitali Klitschko, head of the UDAR (Punch) party, which has close ties to the German state, demagogically told demonstrators: “We will not leave here. This is an island of freedom. We will defend it.” Violent clashes continued throughout the night and early Wednesday morning, paralysing the city.
The bloody scenes in Kiev are the direct result of the campaign waged by the US and Germany to oust Yanukovych after he rejected proposals for closer EU ties and signed a deal with Russia accepting financial aid. In their efforts to prise Ukraine out of Moscow’s orbit and isolate Russia, the Washington and Berlin are openly working with the extreme-right parties.
Top US State Department official Victoria Nuland has repeatedly visited opposition leaders in Ukraine, including the head of the Svoboda party, Oleh Tyahnybok. Leaked phone calls between Nuland and the US ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, exposed the extent of Washington’s micro-management of opposition leaders as it seeks to install a new client regime. (See: “Leaked phone call on Ukraine lays bare Washington’s gangsterism”)
The protests and violence in Kiev followed a meeting in Berlin on Monday in which opposition leaders Klitschko and Arseniy Yatsenyuk called on top German officials, including Chancellor Angela Merkel, for greater support, including to press for sanctions on the Ukrainian government.
Also on Monday, Russia agreed to purchase $2 billion in Ukrainian bonds, giving the Yanukovych regime a financial breathing space that would have been unwelcome in opposition circles as well as in Berlin and Washington.
In the wake of the clashes in Kiev, the US, Germany and the EU immediately blamed Yanukovych and ratcheted up the pressure for his removal. German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier declared: “Whoever is responsible for decisions that may lead to further bloodshed in the center of Kiev and other parts of Ukraine should expect Europe to reconsider its previous reservation on imposing sanctions on individuals.”
According to a White House statement, Vice President Joe Biden contacted the Ukrainian regime to express Washington’s “grave concern” over the violence, and “made clear that the United States condemns violence by any side, but that the government bears special responsibility to de-escalate the situation.”
The US and German responses signal an intensification of the imperialist drive to install a puppet regime in Kiev and transform the Ukraine into a bastion for further provocations and intrigues aimed at dismembering Russia itself and reducing it to a dependent semi-colony. The promotion of right-wing Ukrainian nationalists is part of a broader strategy of exploiting the many ethnic, national and religious divisions within the former Soviet Union to secure dominance over the region.
The subordination of Ukraine is one of the longstanding geo-strategic ambitions of German imperialism, stretching back to World War I. Germany’s current aggressive policy toward Ukraine coincides with the revival of German militarism. At the recent Munich Security Conference, top German officials stated that the time had come when Berlin had to abandon the post-war restraints and restrictions on the use of military force.
US imperialism has pursued a relentless strategy of weakening and isolating Russia for more than two decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Starting with the wars in Yugoslavia in the 1990s, Washington has encouraged and supported so-called colour revolutions in the former Soviet republics. It invaded Afghanistan to establish a base of operations into Central Asia and sought, through sanctions and military threats, to carry out regime-change in Iran and Syria, Russia’s closest allies in the Middle East.
The ability of imperialism to intervene aggressively is the direct outcome of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the restoration of capitalism and the opening up of the former Soviet republics to the plunder of global transnational corporations. In opposing the present imperialist intervention in Ukraine, no political support should be given to Yanukovych or Russian President Vladimir Putin, who represent corrupt, grasping oligarchs who have enriched themselves at the expense of the working class.
The only social force capable of opposing the imperialist intrigues, military threats and drive to war is the international working class. The starting point is a rejection of all forms of nationalism and a political fight to unify workers in Ukraine with their class brothers and sisters throughout Europe, Russia and internationally. That requires a common struggle to abolish the bankrupt profit system and establish a planned world economy to meet the pressing social needs of all.