An agreement aimed at resolving the political crisis in Ukraine has been reached at talks between opposition leaders and embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich, the president’s office said Friday, after clashes between police and anti-government protesters left at least 70 dead.
A statement from the presidential press service said that the deal would be signed Friday afternoon, but gave no other details, Reuters reported. The opposition and European ministers brokering the talks did not immediately confirm an agreement had been reached.
Yanukovych, who was in talks with opposition leaders and foreign officials until early Friday, was “going to make concessions in order to restore peace,” Interfax Ukraine quoted his spokeswoman Anna German as saying earlier in the day.
The talks being brokered by three European Union ministers were proving “difficult,” a European diplomatic source told Reuters.
On Friday 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 that have left at least 101 dead.
No visible police forces remained on the square, and volunteers walked freely to the protest camps to donate food and other packages.
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.
A truce between Yanukovych and the opposition fell apart Thursday, as fresh clashes between both sides have left at least 33 dead, bringing this week’s death toll in Kiev to 59. Dr. Oleh Musiy, the coordinator for the protesters’ medical team, claims that Thursday’s death toll alone is at least 70, but there is no way to independently confirm his statement.
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 and Friday morning.
There was no way to immediately verify any of the death tolls.
In Brussels, Belgium, the 28-nation EU agreed to impose sanctions on Ukraine Thursday, including visa bans, asset freezes and restrictions on the export of anti-riot equipment, according to ministers and officials who spoke to Reuters.
The U.S. – which reiterated Thursday that it would work with its European allies to resolve the crisis – is considering whether to join the EU sanctions. A freeze on assets and travel bans could hurt the oligarchs who back Yanukovych.
But a diplomat who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity before an official announcement said the list of names which officials will be targeted has yet to be established.
The diplomat also said ministers agreed the scope of the sanctions will be adjusted according to the developments in Ukraine. The restrictions are to be drafted into law in the coming days, Reuters reports.
Video footage on Ukrainian television Thursday showed shocking scenes of protesters being cut down by gunfire, lying on the pavement as comrades rushed to their aid. Trying to protect themselves with shields, teams of protesters carried bodies away on sheets of plastic or on planks of wood.
One opposition lawmaker says police who were captured are being held in Kiev’s city hall, which is being occupied by protesters.
The protests started three months ago after Yanukovych shelved an association agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia. After that move, Russia announced a $ 15 billion bailout for Ukraine, whose economy is in tatters.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said Russia will “try to do our best” to fulfill its financial obligations toUkraine, 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.