Ukraine: Deal Reached At Crisis Talks
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
We're getting word of a potential breakthrough in the political crisis in Ukraine after a week of terrible violence in that country between supporters and opponents of President Victor Yanukovych. A deal has been signed between the president and the three main leaders of the opposition. The agreement includes new elections, a new constitution and a coalition government.
Ukraine's health ministry says 77 people died in fighting in Kiev, Ukraine's capital. That fighting was raging yesterday. Today, the scene in the city's main square was very different.
CROWD: (Chanting in foreign language)
GREENE: This was hours before the deal was agreed on. There was already a sense of optimism among anti-government protesters, cheering the arrival of a group of police who do not support the president. Protests had spread well beyond Kiev, and in a moment we'll hear from outside the capital. But first, NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, joining us from Kiev. And Soraya, I know there were foreign ministers from Germany, France, Poland in talks with the president to try and get some sort of deal for him to sign with opposition leaders. What do we know at this point about this agreement?
SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, a short while ago, what happened is that the president, Victor Yanukovych, and apparently the German and Polish foreign ministers were there as well to witness it, signed this agreement with opposition leaders. He was not smiling, according to a Reuters correspondent. And while the details are still somewhat murky from the official side as to what this entails, the Ukrainian broadcaster, ICTV, is saying that one of the terms is that the 2004 constitution here will be restored within 48 hours. And that actually gives the parliament more power here, and that a national unity government will be formed within 10 days. There will also be other constitutional reforms by September and a presidential election is to be held after the new constitution is adopted, and no later than December of this year.
GREENE: Well, Soraya, we don't want to read too much into body language, but if Yanukovych was not smiling, you wonder if he was signing this with some hesitation, and I wonder if there might still be hesitation among people who are still on the street in Kiev. I mean, do we know that opposition leaders, even if they sign this agreement can control the crowds of protesters who are still out there.
NELSON: Well, actually not, is the answer to that last question there. What I'm hearing from the square is that while the council of protesters, sort of like protest leaders, if you will, who are part of this negotiating, say that they accept the terms of this. There are still other elements that are not part of these opposition groups that, for example, far right elements and so on, and they are not - they're calling this a lie. They're saying they don't agree to this.
Another potential pitfall is one of the terms of this agreement apparently is for protesters who are armed with guns to turn them in within 24 hours. And it's not such a controlled environment there where everyone's going to say, OK, fine, and turn them in. So, I think there's a lot that remains to be seen about whether this deal will actually followed through on.
GREENE: But it' worth noting - I mean, there are some who have been out on the streets who have been saying that they were going to stay there unless Yanukovych stepped down, and it doesn't sound like this agreement calls for that anytime soon.
NELSON: That's absolutely the case. And they're still saying that, even after this agreement was reached with the opposition leaders.
GREENE: Are things peaceful for now, Soraya? I know yesterday you were seeing some horrific violence out on the streets of Kiev. Today, it sounds like things are a little different.
NELSON: Absolutely. I mean, the place has been cleaned up. Yesterday, there was a lot of blood in the streets, a lot of debris, a lot of fires and just absolute chaos. And today, that had all been cleaned up. You have lot of protesters in the square, you know, in the thousands, for sure. And they're much more celebratory though. And they were especially welcoming of some police officers in uniform who came from the city in West Ukraine of Lviv, and basically defected and joined the opposition.
GREENE: All right. We'll be seeing how things play out in Kiev after this deal. That's NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, joining us from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev. Soraya, thanks a lot.
NELSON: You're welcome, David.