Embattled Ukraine President Signs Compromise Deal as Parliament Votes to Free His Imprisoned Rival: NYT

Showdown in Kiev.

Showdown in Kiev.

“The embattled president of Ukraine, whose shift toward closer relations with Russia provoked the deadliest political crisis in his country’s post-Soviet history, signed a compromise deal on Friday that will diminish his power and watched helplessly as an emboldened Parliament voted overwhelmingly to free his imprisoned rival,” reported the New York Times.

“The agreement signed by President Viktor F. Yanukovych and leaders of the opposition commits him to early elections and reduces some presidential authority,” noted the Times. “Although Russia declined to endorse the deal, and many protesters — suspicious of the president’s motives — said they wanted Mr. Yanukovych to resign, opposition leaders said they hoped to persuade the skeptics and end the confrontation.”

Excerpts:

  • In a further sign of the president’s diminished influence, Parliament voted to allow the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who has been imprisoned for more than two years.
  • In a 310-to-54 vote that is veto-proof, lawmakers decriminalized the actions for which she was incarcerated….
  • Parliament also approved a pivotal point in the political settlement by taking the first step toward reverting to a previous version of Ukraine’s Constitution, which significantly weakens the power of the president. With support from the pro-government party, the Party of Regions, that was required to vote with a constitutional majority, lawmakers annulled amendments to the Constitution adopted after 2008, before Mr. Yanukovych became president. The change was adopted with 386 votes, well above the 300 needed.
  • Lawmakers also passed an unconditional and blanket amnesty for all participants in the antigovernment protests absolving those in custody or under investigation now and prohibiting future prosecutions of protesters. They also voted to dismiss the minister of the interior, a reviled figure among protesters.
  • The votes came hours after word of the political deal reached between Mr. Yanukovych and the main opposition leaders….
  • A bigger problem could be a refusal by Russia’s representative to join the Europeans in signing the accord, which suggested Moscow might work to undo the deal through economic or other pressure.
  • “I am upset that the Russians are not signatories,” Mr. Yatsenyuk said. “I am really upset.”…..
  • Yuriy Korshenko, a lawyer and former judge who joined thousands of others on Thursday at Mikhailovsky Cathededral near Independence Square to show support for the protesters, said Mr. Yanukovych must leave office immediately “or he will end up like Ceaucescu and Qaddafi.”
  • The Romanian and Libyan dictators, Nicolae Ceaucescu and Muammar el-Qaddafi, were both killed in bloody uprisings against their rule. Mr. Korshenko added, “If Yanukovych were a man of honor, he would have already shot himself.”
  • By late Thursday evening, the choices for Mr. Yanukovych had narrowed to a stark dilemma between a massacre of protesters or negotiation: exhausted and outnumbered riot police officers had withdrawn from their positions in front of the cabinet building and the Parliament, leaving 500 yards of eerily empty pavement between the last protest barricade near the Dynamo soccer stadium and the seats of power.
  • But the windows of the cabinet building were fortified with sandbags to create firing positions onto the street below, the only option left to defend the building as talks continued through the night elsewhere in the capital with the opposition and the European and Russian envoys.
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