Yanukovych announces ‘peace deal’

Ukraine’s president says he has reached a deal with the opposition to end the crisis, after all-night talks mediated by three EU foreign ministers.

Viktor Yanukovych’s statement said the agreement would be signed later.

However, the French foreign minister voiced caution, saying the deal was not definitive, and the opposition has not confirmed Mr Yanukovych’s claim.

Protesters and police are still locked in a stand-off in Kiev, a day after dozens were killed in violent clashes.

On Thursday, EU foreign ministers said sanctions would be imposed on some Ukrainian officials over the violence.

The US has warned Kiev that it would follow suit.

The protests first erupted in late November when President Yanukovych rejected a landmark association and trade deal with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia.

Thursday was the bloodiest day since the unrest began.

Police opened fire after protesters tried to push them away from the makeshift camps they have been occupying in central Kiev.

The health ministry said 77 people had been killed since Tuesday, and another 577 were injured.

But activists suggested the death toll was likely to be much higher.

Early election mooted

On Thursday, the foreign ministers of France, Poland and Germany conducted several hours of discussions with Mr Yanukovych on a “road-map towards a political solution” before going on to talks with opposition leaders.

They returned for another meeting with Mr Yanukovych in the evening and the talks continued through the night.

Early on Friday, the presidency said “parties agreed on the initialling of an agreement to resolve the crisis”, but gave no further details.

European mediators had earlier said Mr Yanukovych had been willing to hold an early election, which is one of the protesters’ main demands.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was involved in the talks, said he would be “cautious” about announcing any deal.

“The opposition in particular wants to be able to consult with some of its members, which is completely understandable,” he said.

He said all sides at the talks had agreed not to issue a statement before everything had been agreed.

Earlier in the crisis, opposition leaders refused to agree anything with the government until they gained the approval of protesters.

Analysts say that after Thursday’s killings, the split between protesters and the government is becoming impossible to bridge.

Mr Fabius said the talks had been difficult because Ukraine “is or was on the verge of civil war”.

Video footage on Thursday showed protesters walking directly towards the police, even as they fired handguns and rifles.

Police also shot protesters who went to help wounded colleagues.

Some of the protesters were armed with hunting rifles, and some threw petrol bombs.

There were also reports that dozens of police had been taken hostage.

But most of the protesters were unarmed, and tried to protect themselves from the bullets with homemade shields.

MPs assembled for a session of parliament on Thursday afternoon voted to condemn the violence.

They also called for the use of weapons against protesters to be banned, and for troops and police deployed against them to be withdrawn.

The session was attended by 239 out of 450 MPs, most of them from opposition parties.

A presidential statement blamed the opposition for the violence, and dismissed calls for a truce as “nothing but a way of playing for time to mobilise and arm militants”.