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Ukraine

'Deal' reached in Kyiv, EU diplomats urge caution

Ukraine's presidency claims an agreement has been reached at marathon talks in Kyiv involving top EU diplomats in the wake of sniper killings. France has urged caution while Ukraine's opposition has stayed silent.

The consultative uncertainty coincided Friday with a claim by police that protestors had opened fire on officers, prompting police counter-fire, near the parliament building in Kyiv.

Scruffles also erupted inside parliament between deputies during debate on whether Yanukovych's powers should be reduced.

The office of Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych said talks, adjourned Friday morning, had produced an "agreement to settle the crisis" but top EU diplomats cautioned that Ukraine's opposition needed time to consult.

The private Ukrainian television channel 1+1 claimed the deal would return the country to its 2004 constitution within 48 hours.

It also foresaw the formation of a coalition government within 10 days and early presidential elections in December, the channel said.

Caution, urge EU diplomats

However, the foreign ministries of Germany and France said respectively that the marathon talks would "continue later on" and that a deal was not "definitive," because Ukraine's pro-EU opposition still needed to consult internally.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier's office merely said the overnight talks had been "very difficult" and they would continue after a break on Friday.

"We cannot say anything definitive before the end of the morning," Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told French radio from Beijing.

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

Fabius left Kyiv Thursday night for Beijing but said he had been in touch with his colleagues, Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany and Radoslaw Sikorski of Poland, who had stayed on in the Ukrainian capital.

Talks resume, says Poland

Sikorski had tweeted a few minutes before the presidential announcement that the talks had been suspended.

"After negotiations through the night, talks ended at 7:20" [local time], Sikorski said.

"The next meeting will take place at noon local time [1000 UTC]," a Polish foreign ministry spokesman added.

The Kyiv consultations included the Ukrainian opposition leaders Arseny Yatsenyuk and Vitaly Klitschko as well as Oleh Tyahnibok of the nationalist Svoboda party.

Former Russian ombudsman Vladimir Lukin was sent from Moscow.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke by phone with Russia's President Vladimir Putin and President Barack Obama about the crisis on Thursday evening.

Deep skepticism

Anti-government protesters still encamped in Kyiv's central Independence Square, also known as Maidan, were deeply skeptical of any announcement from the Russian-backed president.

Several thousand protesters milled around the Maidan, and volunteers walked freely to the protest camps to donate food and other packages.

Parliament calls for police withdrawal

In an apparent sign of a weakening in Yanukovych's standing, Ukraine's parliament late on Thursday adopted a resolution urging authorities to stop shooting and withdraw police from the centre of Kiev.

Ukraine's health ministry said Friday that fatal clashes between demonstrators and Yanukovych's security forces had claimed at least 77 lives since Tuesday. It added that 577 people had been wounded and 369 hospitalized.

The medical coordinator for the protesters, Dr. Oleh Musiy said alone on Thursday at least 70 protesters were killed and over 500 were wounded.

Ukraine's Interior Ministry said three policemen were killed and 28 suffered gunshot wounds.

During three hours of fierce fighting on Thursday protesters recaptured the square. Bodies of more than 20 civilians lay on the ground, a short walk from Yanukovich's office.

Video footage

Video footage captured riot police shooting from a rooftop at demonstrators in the central plaza while protesters hurled petrol bombs and paving stones to drive away security forces who had previously seized a corner of the square.

Demonstrators said some police officers they captured during Thursday's violence had been allowed to go.

In another sign of the severity of the crisis, ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut Ukraine's credit rating for the second time in three weeks on Friday, citing the increased risk of default.

ipj/hc (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

DW.DE