(Reuters) – Ukraine’s opposition leaders signed an EU-mediated peace deal with President Viktor Yanukovich on Friday, aiming to resolve a political crisis in which dozens have been killed and opening the way for an early presidential election this year.
Under pressure to quit from mass demonstrations in Kiev, Russian-backed Yanukovich made a series of concessions to his pro-European opponents, including a national unity government and constitutional change to reduce his powers, as well as bringing forward the poll.
“There are no steps that we should not take to restore peace in Ukraine,” the president said in announcing his concessions before the deal was signed. “I announce that I am initiating early elections.”
He said Ukraine would revert to a previous constitution under which parliament had greater control over the make-up of the government, including the prime minister.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, one of the EU mediators, said the deal provided for a presidential election this year, although no date had been set. The vote had been due in March 2015.
A Reuters correspondent at the signing in the presidential headquarters said Yanukovich, 63, a towering former Soviet regional transport official with two convictions for assault, did not smile during a ceremony lasting several minutes.
Opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko, a retired world boxing champion, switched his nameplate to avoid sitting next to the president. The European mediators signed as witnesses but a Russian envoy present did not sign the document…. see more