The Interpreter

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Scenes from the Ukrainian Rada, February 20, 2014

Ukraine Liveblog: Day 4 — Yanukovych Teeters

Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has lost much of his power base following the bloodiest day in a 72-hour period in Ukraine. He has now announced early elections, though without specifying when they might be held. Meanwhile, Russia has threatened military action in Crimea to protect ethnic Russians and a Russian military base there.

Yesterday’s liveblog can be found here. For an overview of what’s behind the protests and analysis of today’s news see today’s new podcast. For a summary of the first 24 hours of events in Ukraine, see our translation, What Happened Overnight in Kiev and Throughout Ukraine.

Here is a livestream of the events:

Updates are below. Refresh the page, as we make regular updates:


0105 GMT: The aunt of the former Ukrainian Prime Minister told the Kyiv Post that Yulia Tymoshenko could be released from prison on March 1st, following changes to the law made today by the Ukrainian Rada (jump to update 1740).


0050 GMT: This is one of the saddest and most powerful videos to emerge from Ukraine. It is the funeral in Maidan Square tonight, with some of the most haunting music – and chanting “to the heroes!” It’s less than 4 minutes long, but I encourage you to view it to really understand the mood in Maidan tonight:


0014 GMT: Censor.net is reporting that Andriy Parubiy, an MP and leader in the Maidan Self-Defence force has announced that all of the leaders of the opposition factions in the Maidan, including the Right Sector, have agreed to a plan of action. Furthermore he apparently has the support of the military staff, who agree to the resignation of Yanukovych as an essential demand. Parubiy, according to this report, declares that the government buildings, and the wider city of Kiev, are now under the control of Maidan.

The Maidan commandant and Self-Defence force chief, deputy Andriy Parubiy has managed to persuade the Maidan to follow a general, coordinated plan of action, which takes account of deals between the opposition and Yanukovych.

This was posted on Facebook by journalist Natalia Ligacheva, relayed by Censor.NET

“Parubiy, it seems, has succeeded in finding arguments for the Maidan. God willing! Now all the leaders of the hundreds are declaring their consent to coordinated action, including the hundreds of the Right Sector”, she wrote commenting on the reaction in the Maidan.

Parubiy appeared on stage with the military staff. He presented them, everyone was shouting well done. Parubiya declared that they demanded the resignation of Yanukovych, who has fled to Kharkiv. We’re in control of Kiev. We have seized control of the government quarter. “We demand the immediate resignation of Yakunovych. We demand the immediate timetabling of early parliamentary elections. For all these many months we had one common principle – a dry law on the Maidan. This principle will be preserved in the future. We must show that where there is Maidan, there is discipline. We created a headquarters in the Maidan and we will not tolerate any action without coordinating with it. We must show that when Kiev is under the control of the Maidan, there will be order in Kiev. Where there is Maidan, there will be order and discipline. We will not allow titushki to go looting”, announced Parubiy.


2328 GMT: While Yanukovych is reportedly fleeing from Kiev to Kharkiv, the SBU (Security Service of Ukraine) is opening criminal cases against both the governor of Kharkiv Oblast and the mayor of Kharkiv city. The reason — separatism. Below is a translation:

The Ukrainian Security Service has opened a criminal case against the mayor of Kharkiv, Gennady Kernes, and the governor of the Kharkiv oblast, Mikhail Dobkin. This was announced by the former Interior Minister, Yuri Lutsenko, while conversing with protesters at the Maidan barricades, according to Segodnya.ua.

“I spoke with high-ranking officals at the SBU [Security Service], and I was informed that, on account of separatist declarations, the SBU had opened a criminal case against Mayor Kernes of Kharkiv and Governor Dobkin of the Kharkiv oblast”, said Lutsenko.

Let us recall that Gennady Kernes and Mikhail Dobkin have previously made statements regarding the federalisation of Ukraine. Dobkin has also stated that he has the right to impose a “special” regime in the Kharkiv oblast. Suggestions were already being heard in January that the officials could be brought to justice for such claims.

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2311 GMT: Flight AOJ92C, the aircraft mentioned below as having left Kiev for Sochi, no longer appears to be heading there. The flight has passed into Georgian airspace, making it an unlikely suspect for Yanukovych’s flight.


2255 GMT: As we’ve been reporting, the news of Yanukovych’s departure from Kiev broke at 2117 GMT. We reported it at 2123 GMT (which may make us the first in English to carry this news).

There’s on problem — according to Flight Tracker, no aircraft left from Kiev heading to Kharkiv during that period of time. Another flight, AOJ92C, takes off at about 2144 GMT, but it didn’t go to Kharkiv, it went…

…towards Sochi:

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The flight has not touched down yet, but that flight seems like it’s going to Russia. We’re not sure what other flight Yanukovych could be on.

Of course, this is hardly airtight, but it is thought provoking.


2250 GMT: Now a very large protest has been held tonight in Zaporizhia, in southeast Ukraine where Yanukovych should have significant support.


2235 GMT: More information on what Yanukovych is reportedly doing tomorrow in Kharkiv now that he has fled Kiev:

Tomorrow President Viktor Yanukovych will take part in a Congress of the “Ukrainian Front” which is being organised by the Kharkiv governor, Mikhail Dobkin.

Sources at Kharkiv airport told Hvilya that the aeroplane carrying Yanukovych will land in Kharkiv within half an hour.

Furthermore, our sources in the Presidential Administration reported that all of the most combat ready of the Berkut and army forces have been transferred to Kharkiv and the southeast. The evacuation had already begun on February 17.

There are now 17 buses carrying activists from Right Sector towards towards Kharkiv. To be more precise, they are ostensibly with the ‘Right Sector’, because they could be disguised titushki [pro-government thugs -- Ed.]. They have already fired at two police checkpoints along the way.

There will not be a quorum at the Congress, as many deputies from the Crimea, Zaporozhye and other oblasts have not traveled to Kharkiv. However, this will not prevent them using fighters, who will organise chaos, to show that Ukraine is descending into chaos, and that it is politically necessary for the southeast to become a separate entity.

At the same time in Kiev, an attempt could be organised to storm the empty Presidential Administration and Rada with the help of the ‘Right Sector’ or other organisations, which will create the necessary backdrop for the separatists, led by Viktor Yanukovych.

According to our sources, Yanukovych said that he had compromised with the “Banderists” under pressure.

Some commentary from Christopher Miller, who has been doing an excellent job reporting this crisis:

We’ve received some pushback on the State Department statement. White House correspondent for the DC Examiner, Brian Hughes, notes that the State Department isn’t saying Yanukovych fled Kiev, but rather he’s gone to Kharkiv to sure-up support. However, no President flees his capital during a crisis like this, and the State Department is, by definition, diplomatic, so call it what you will — but Yanukovych fled.

The question is what he intends to do there — seek refuge or prepare an assault, or something else all together? It’s been a week filled with surprises, so we’ll just wait and see.


2225 GMT: Earlier we reported that there were a rash of Lenin statues destroyed in the last 24 hours, an indication of the growing anti-Russian sentiments of members of the Ukrainian opposition (jump to update 1413 for videos and pictures). Apparently, a lot of them were toppled, and considering how many other ones were destroyed before this, 16 is an impressively high number:

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2218 GMT: CONFIRMATION:


2210 GMT: More context on the reports that Yanukovych has fled Ukraine’s capital to its second largest city, Kharkiv, a traditional stronghold but a city where a very large anti-Yanukovych rally is being held tonight:


2204 GMT: More information from ZN.UA, one of the two Ukrainian news agencies reporting that Yanukovych has fled Kiev:

The source also stressed to ZN.UA that Yanukovych doubts the viability of the adoption of the law on the restoration of the 2004 constitution today by the Verkhovnaya Rada….

Let us recall that in Kharkiv on Saturday, February 22, a Congress of the deputies of all levels of the southeastern oblasts of Sevastopol and the Crimea [will be held].


2159 GMT: More information on the President reportedly fleeing:

Meanwhile, there is no indication that anyone in Maidan has heard the news, as they are holding funerals for the fallen:

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another funeral


2150 GMT: This is not quite confirmation, but it is interesting:

This rally was reportedly held tonight on Kharkiv, where Yanukovych has reportedly fled (see previous updates). The people are chanting “Revolution!” and “Get Out Crook!”


2142 GMT: We are awaiting ultimate confirmation that the Ukrainian President has fled Kiev. What we know is that Kashin is a very well respected and well connected journalist, and both censor.net.ua and ZN.UA have been reliable sources.


2126 GMT: Now there is a media report that Yanukovych has fled Kiev and has moved to Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv. Here is a summary:

Yanukovych, Rybak, Kluyev and Novinsky have flown off to Kharkiv – Media

Viktor Yanukovych, along with a small number of trusted guards, flew off to Kharkiv at 22:40

A source told ZN.UA to a senior source in the presidential administration, reports Tsenzor.NET.


2123 GMT: BREAKING but very unconfirmed:

“VIKTOR YANUKOVYCH HAS FLOWN TO KHARKIV”


2112 GMT: As we reported earlier, the summer home of Viktor Medvedchuk is on fire, and police and firefighters have now been dispatched to put it out. Here is a translation:

Interfax-Ukraine has been told by the press service of the regional police that there has been a fire in a building belonging to politician Viktor Medvedchuk, the leader of ‘Ukrainian Choice’.

“Police received a report from GSHS [State Emergency Service] of a fire in Medvedchuk’s house in the Obukhov district,” said the head of the press service of the Kiev police, Nikolai Zhukovich, to Interfax-Ukraine on Friday evening.

He added that firefighters are currently extinguishing the fire, and that the police have left the scene.

Who is Viktor Medvedchuk? He’s a Ukrainian oligarch, and chairman of the pro-Russian “Ukrainian Choice” party. He’s often been described as the leader of Putin’s fifth column in Ukraine.

Just today, RFE/RL published an article about documents which were reportedly leaked, detailing Russia’s plan to control the crisis and expand Russia’s role in Ukraine. The documents clearly illustrate that Viktor Medvedchuk is playing a “key role” in this process:

Opinions vary on the authenticity of the document. But former Foreign Minister Volodymyr Ohryzko told RFE/RL’s Ukrainian Service he had no doubt it reflects Moscow’s intentions.

“You probably noted such words as ‘coercion,’ ‘forcing,’ and so on [in the document]. This has been the core of Russia’s policy toward Ukraine for a long time,” Ohryzko said. “This is nothing new — it is the continuation of the same imperialistic course.

“I hope this document will be read by as many Western diplomats in Ukraine as possible and that they will pass on the details to their capitals. Maybe it will help them reach the right conclusions and finally realize that there is a systematic ideological, political, economic, and information war being waged against Ukraine.”

But Medvedchuk’s meddling ways are much older than this recent conflict. A recent exposé by Anton Shekhovtsov argues that Medvedchuk had a major role in discrediting Yanukovych’s opponents during the 2004 Orange Revolution.

In the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, which resulted in a dramatic stand-off between Viktor Yanukovych and Viktor Yushchenko, a certain Eduard Kovalenko, leader of the virtual far right party Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA), declared that he and his party would hold a march in support of Yushchenko as a presidential candidate. Yushchenko’s office immediately replied that they never needed that support and did their best to distance from Kovalenko’s sordid initiative. Yet Yushchenko’s office could not hamper that march and, on 26 June 2004, Kovalenko proceeded:

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At the meeting that was held after the march, Kovalenko declared: “We, the right-wing nationalist party, are supporting the only one candidate from the right-wing forces: Viktor Yushchenko. One Ukraine, one nation, one people, one president!”. And he gave a Hitler salute.

According to Andriy Shkil, then the leader of the UNA-UNSO, the whole event was staged by Viktor Medvedchuk*, then the Head of the Presidential Administration (under President Leonid Kuchma), who was later involved in the electoral fraud in favour of pro-Russian Yanukovych which triggered the “Orange revolution”. Medvedchuk was (and still is) also known for his close personal relations with Vladimir Putin who is the godfather of Medvedchuk’s daughter.

Kovalenko’s task was simple: by giving support to Yushchenko under the Nazi-like flags, he was expected to discredit the democratic candidate in the eyes of Western observers. Luckily for Yushchenko, however, the Western media largely did not buy into that frame-up and ignored it.

Are the allegations true? Perception is reality, and the fact that Medvedchuk’s house is on fire on this day of all days is not likely a coincidence.


2053 GMT: More on the story that there have been clashes on a highway leading to Kiev. This is a translation of a report from LB.ua:

A self-defence detachment has clashed with Berkut forces on Brovarskyi highway.

Denis Bloschinsky, a resident from the neighbouring village of Knyazhichi, told LB.ua that the self-defence squad was patrolling the highway. They were inspecting cars on the road, but the bus carrying the Berkut, which was coming from Kiev, did not want to stop.

Activists shot the bus tires out. The Berkut troops opened fire with Kalashnikovs in response.

“The bus crawled on punctured tires as far as Yalynka, a railway station in Knyazhichi. There the troops poured out and fled. It so happens that many hunters live there, who have weapons,” says Denis.

According to preliminary information, one of the activists was shot in the leg.

Knyazhichi is located 12 km from Kiev.


2039 GMT: The summer home of a Ukranian politician is reportedly on fire. Retribution?


2036 GMT: Another scene from a somber moment in Maidan Square, the site of so much violence over the previous three days:

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2031 GMT: Fresh violence. the Euromaidan Twitter account just posted this picture after they said that someone on a bus on Brovarska Highway filled with Berkut riot offciers headed to Kiev opened fire and at least one person was shot:

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More details when we have them.


2025 GMT: Right now in Maidan they are holding more funerals for protesters who were killed in the last few days. The funerals started only minutes after the crowds essentially booed opposition politician Vitali Klitschko off the stage.

Right now they are chanting “heroes do not die.”

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1945 GMT: A defeated-looking Vitali Klitschko just spoke to the crowds in Maidan.

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They booed him, and yelled cat calls when he paused. At one point, he looked like he was ready to cry, and his body language as ke walked off the stage was even more defeated than when he was on it.

We don’t have a transcript, but the general sense is that he even apologized for doing things like shaking Yanukovych’s hand. Yet nothing he did could win him the crowd.


1937 GMT: More comments about the situation in the crowds of MAidan, where the news of a deal between President Yanukovych and the opposition politicians is not being well received at all:


1925 GMT: Fearing the rise of right-wing parties like Svoboda, and in light of a recent attack on Jewish students, a prominent rabbi has urged Jews to flee Ukraine:

One of Ukraine’s Chief Rabbis, Moshe Reuven Asman, urged Jews to leave capital city Kiev following a reported anti-Semitic attack on two Chabad yeshiva students in the city last month, Israeli daily Ma’ariv reported.

“I told my community to get out of the city and if possible out of the state…there are many warnings about planned attacks against Jewish institutions,” Asman said, adding, “We have been told by the Israeli Embassy to not go outside.”

Does he have reasons to be concerned? Of course, but this statement may just reinforce the idea that these events are being driven by hardline nationalists.


1912 GMT: As we’ve been saying, none of the opposition politicians necessarily has control over the crowds. The Euromaidan protests started without leaders, and the crowd is torn on whether it supports these politicians.

That makes negotiating a settlement hard, however. Here’s more context on the vow to remove Yanukovych from power by 10 AM:

If a few protesters turn to violence, does the deal collapse? If many of them do, will it?

Meanwhile, with police standing down across the country (but, of course, not everywhere), Yanukovych’s physical and political power base is weakened. If he calls his police back to put down Maidan, there be enough of them? Follow up question – will we finally see a full-scale military deployment instead?

For now there is a truce in Ukraine, but it is already proving to be an extremely fragile truce.

The wild card is the Rada, which continues to pass legislation to hammer away at Yanukovych’s power. In fact, their efforts may be the best hope yet of a peaceful solution.


1907 GMT: Sources confirm that speakers on the stage in Maidan have demanded that Yanukovych step down before 10 AM tomorrow or they will remove him by force:

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Meanwhile, more of Yanukovych’s officers have stepped down.

Perhaps they support the protests, or are disgusted by the government’s actions. Or perhaps they just don’t want to be around when 10 AM strikes.


1852 GMT: We’ve seen similar claims to the one below today, but this is the first picture we’ve seen:

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We do know that several groups of police officers have surrendered or stood down in the face of protests in the west, and now in the east (jump to update 1625), some of whom have joined the protesters. These are just more signs that the hardline approach Yanukovych has taken before today has helped to erode his power base.


1842 GMT: President Yanukovych may have signed a deal with the opposition, but that doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods. The Rada is moving ahead with impeachment proceedings. Interfax reports:

“A bill on the impeachment of the Ukrainian president has been introduced in the Verkhovnaya Rada.

The bill was filed on Friday, February 21, as number 4171. The author is the independent people’s deputy, Nikolai Rudkovsky [Interfax spelled his name wrong, his name is Mykola Rudkovsky -- Ed.].

The text of the bill and other supporting documents are available on the parliament’s website.”

And then there are rumors like this one:

So things are quiet now, but what happens if any of these other things comes to fruition?


1740 GMT: The Ukrainian Rada, or parliament, has now made moves which are designed to change the law in order to release jailed opposition leader and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison. Reuters reports:

The amendments would decriminalise aspects of the criminal code relevant to her prosecution and set Ukrainian law in line with European Union legislation, her supporters said.

“We are insisting that there is a vote on a bill which would free Tymoshenko,” former economy minister Arseny Yatsenyuk, who has taken over as head of her Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) party since she was jailed, told parliament.


1731 GMT: The President of Ukraine has just signed an agreement that could end the crisis. What does the agreement say? Will it work? Will Russia intervene and make things worse? Will there be a civil war? And why is everyone protesting again? Boston College Professor Matt Sienkiewicz and Interpreter Magazine’s managing editor James Miller break down the latest from Ukraine in our new podcast. Listen below or open in a new window where we have links to previous podcasts:


1625 GMT: A livestream reportedly shows protesters rallying outside the Dnepropetrovsk Regional State Administration. There are no signs of violence. It would appear that the protesters are celebrating.

This means that in Dnepropetrovsk, in southeast Ukraine, in what should be the center of Yanukovych’s support, even here the protesters are joining those in Maidan, and the police do not seem to be resisting.


1620 GMT: A potentially highly significant report from Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine’s 4th largest city located in the southeast. It appears that police may have peacefully surrendered to protesters there:

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1617 GMT: The Rada continues to vote on key pieces of legislation on this historic day:


1614 GMT: A funeral for fallen protesters is being held in Maidan square right now:

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1610 GMT: Meanwhile, the protesters in Maidan appear to be digging in, preparing for another police assault. The mood is calm, but there is no sign that they are ready to leave:

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1556 GMT: We’re following reports that the police, in many areas, have pulled back. But now we’re also seeing reports like this:

Meanwhile, the police are almost nowhere to be seen in front of the Presidential administrative buildings:


1539 GMT: Hackers have targeted Ukraine government websites today:


1546 GMT: The evidence of the chaos of yesterday’s events is still coming to light. Take this picture, for instance, of a shielf belonging to a medic:

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This is more evidence that while some protesters were violent, and others were only firing airguns, the police were shooting and in many cases killing non-combatants.


1528 GMT: The prominent Russian blogger Ilya Varlamov has been covering Maidan, and he noted the extreme bias of the Russian media coverage. Here is an excerpt of a post of his on Facebook:

Last night I turned on, by accident, the TV channel Russia. I don’t watch TV or Russian news. This time, for some reason I turned it on. Thought about watching the Verkhovnaya Rada session, flipped through the channels, and at that exact time the Russian evening news were showing segments about Maidan. Of course, I had no illusions regarding how our federal channels present information. But it’s one thing to watch a segment about some faraway events, and something entirely different when they’re reporting all kinds of drivel about events that are happening right under your windows. At one point I wanted to walk out to Maidan, find their reporter and ask him what is he rambling about. I especially enjoyed the bit about the eastern Ukraine, where they showed “simple folk”, ready to grab their pitchforks and ride on Kiev, to defend “their president.”

Here exists a very important question about objectivity. I understand that each side has their own truth. I don’t pretend as if my correspondence shows the entire pictures. Of course it’s one-sided – I’m reporting from Maidan’s side. I would love to photograph the other side, but those guys are not very fond of journalists. If the Russia channel showed the side of the police, told their version, there wouldn’t be any problems. But they come to Maidan, rip out of context some rumors and give the viewer a completely wrong picture. In other words, don’t read any Soviet papers.

I suppose that the main question being discussed in Moscow – why hasn’t Maidan been scattered yet. It’s not as easy to disperse Maidan as it may seem on TV. There are anywhere from ten to 50 thousand people at Maidan at any given time, and many are ready to see this to the end. Just so that you would get the atmosphere: There are constant shot ringing out; someone is constantly carrying corpses through the crowd, dozens of killed and hundreds of wounded. Despite this, people carry on as usual, cleaning up rubble after the latest assault and building new barricades. They’re not running from the water cannons, APCs or snipers. How can you disperse them? There will be hundreds of casualties. Who’s ready to take responsibility for so many corpses? What’s really telling, though is that on the next day after the assault, thousands of regular Kiev residents came out to Maidan. Instead of work, they came to the barricades. And these are simple Kiev natives, not “crazed radicals” being shown in the segment of the Russia channel. The list of the deceased contains people of different ages; there are political activists, teachers, retirees and simple workers.

As we pointed out earlier, The Russian government’s English news channel, RT, has been distorting the facts as well (jump to update 1425). The Russian government is engaged in a full-scale propaganda blitz to discredit the protesters in Maidan, to paint this as a struggle of Russia vs. “the West,” and to provoke fear and division. As we’ve covered in the past, even Russia TV weathermen are engaged in this propaganda.

But, again, with peace already so fragile, the behavior of the Kremlin is more dangerous than ever.


1518 GMT: Much has been made about the prospects of the western provinces pulling away from Ukraine. However, if this deal holds, and if the opposition wins many concessions, and if Russia remains so displeased, could we see a different scenario? RFE/RL has a fascinating article on a growing movement in eastern Ukraine, in Crimea – a separatist movement that wants to go back to being part of Russia. As Russia has already threatened to invade Crimea, this scenario may not be that far-fetched either (jump to update 1225).


1514 GMT: Will Russia abide by this agreement, or will they stand in its way? An early sign:

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1504 GMT: Just moments ago, the telltale sound of a Rada vote in process ticked down. The 2004 Constitution has been approved unanimously, and the body of the Rada erupted into singing the national anthem:

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1500 GMT: The key question now is whether this deal will stick — will there be more violence, will the police retaliate, and will the protesters leave?


1447 GMT: An English translation of the deal between President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition. Here are the key statements:

1. Within 48 hours of the signing of this agreement, a special law will be adopted, signed and promulgated, which will restore the Constitution of 2004 including amendments passed until now. Signatories declare their intention to create a coalition and form a national unity government within 10 days thereafter.

2. Constitutional reform, balancing the powers of the President, the government and parliament, will start immediately and be completed in September 2014.

3. Presidential elections will be held as soon as the new Constitution is adopted but no later than December 2014. New electoral laws will be passed and a new Central Election Commission will be formed on the basis of proportionality and in accordance with the OSCE & Venice commission rules.

4. Investigation into recent acts of violence will be conducted under joint monitoring from the authorities, the opposition and the Council of Europe.

5. The authorities will not impose a state of emergency. The authorities and the opposition will refrain from the use of violence. The Parliament will adopt the 3rd amnesty, covering the same range of illegal actions as the 17th February 2014 law.

Both parties will undertake serious efforts for the normalisation of life in the cities and villages by withdrawing from administrative and public buildings and
unblocking streets, city parks and squares.

Illegal weapons should be handed over to the Ministry of Interior bodies within 24 hours of the special law, referred to in point 1 hereof, coming into force. After
the aforementioned period, all cases of illegal carrying and storage of weapons will fall under the law of Ukraine. The forces of authorities and of the opposition will step back from confrontational posture. The Government will use law enforcement forces exclusively for the physical protection of public buildings.

6. The Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, Poland and the Special Representative of the President of the Russian Federation call for an immediate end to all violence and confrontation.


1425 GMT: Speaking of Russia, the state-owned propaganda/news outlet RT has been following developments in Ukraine very closely, and slandering the protesters at every opportunity.

We know that some protesters had weapons, and even guns, yesterday, and we know that police officers have died during these clashes. Respectable reporters have seen this with their own eyes. However, these reports have been few and far between, and firearms appear to be so rare among protesters that there is no clear visual record of them being fired at police. In fact, a video from two days ago that appeared to show protesters firing guns proved to be a bit deceiving. We consulted arms expert Nic R. Jenzen-Jones, Director of Armament Research Services, who said that the weapons appeared to be either air-rifles or pistols equipped with less-than-lethal rounds. On the other hand, police have been filmed gunning down unarmed groups of protesters, shooting many in the head with sniper-rounds for a long distance.

Yesterday, RT posted video that it claimed was incontrovertible proof that the protesters were sniping at police. The problem? We once again consulted Nic R. Jenzen-Jones, who is sure that the “sniper” in question is using an air rifle, and the pistol on one of the protesters (which is not fired in the video) may also be an airgun, though without clearer pictures he could not make a clear identification.

Ukraine  Snipers target police in Independence Square   YouTube

Ukraine  Snipers target police in Independence Square   YouTube pistol

RT is known to stretch or bend the facts, or sensationalize or even lie, in order to promote the Kremlin’s foreign and domestic policy. For instance, The Interpreter was able to prove that RT posted fake pictures and sensationalized news reports of a massacre in Syria — a massacre that supposedly happened more than three months ago, though there is no hard evidence that it ever even happened, and all pictures and videos reportedly showing the incident have been proven fake. Worse yet, an RT editor was made fully aware that the reports were problematic, but he made no effort to address them, and it took RT several days to remove the fake evidence from their website after the publication of our article, despite the fact that their editor was complaining about our article on public forums.

In other words, facts aren’t particularly important to either Russia or RT, but in a situation where things are already this tense, a little propaganda can do a lot of damage.

Speaking of Syria and Russia, the Syrian town of Kafranbel holds protests every Friday. This week, Russia and Ukraine featured as part of their theme. Because what is happening in Ukraine, with Russia trying to provoke the incident instead of calming it, has been happening in Syria for years:

Syria ukraine Kafranbel


1413 GMT: Lenin – Lenin statues are in many squares across Ukraine, and yet since the Euromaidan protests have begun, Lenin statues have come toppling down across the country. While most protesters didn’t start out believing that this was a battle of Europe against Russia, Putin has tried to make it into just such a battle, and the more he pushes the more anti-Russian the protests have become.

There has been a pause in those topplings lately, but not last night or today, where there have been many of them.

A Lenin statue goes down in Skvira, Kiev Oblast:

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And another in Zhytomyr, northwest Ukraine, toppled last night:

The protesters hate Russia. Russia hates the protesters. This relationship may be more important to the outcome of this crisis than statues of long-dead Russian heroes.


1401 GMT: Keep in mind that the deal between the opposition and the president has not been published. Earlier we carried reports that part of the deal would cut out the Interior Minister and the Prosecutor General. Now, that’s not so clear.

Russia, which is very unhappy with this, appears to already be spinning the story. Here is a report from Reuters, but it cites Interfax, a Russian news agency. Blaming this component on the far-right may just be a strategy to discredit the deal — or it could be true, as the far-right has been the most intransigent portion of the opposition:

Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted Oleh Tyahnibok, a far-right leader, as saying the deal should stand only if there were guarantees that the present interior minister and prosecutor-general were not included in any interim government.


1354 GMT: The mood in Maidan is unquestionably less tense today than it was yesterday. In a surreal scene, here protesters and medics play soccer (or football) just on the edge of where so much blood was shed yesterday:


1346 GMT: Another key detail of the plan:

The Interior Ministry is driving the moves of the riot police on the street, and the Prosecutor General has been persecuting protesters and political opponents.

Will this be enough? Short of the President stepping down, these are major concessions.

Another key detail – Russia is reportedly not happy:


1344 GMT: More details on the deal designed to defuse this crisis, which appears to have been agreed upon by President Yanukovych, the opposition leaders, and the European Union:

And now The Moscow Times has the key components summarized:

“I will also initiate a… redistribution of powers towards a parliamentary republic,” Yanukovych said in a statement posted Friday on the presidential website.

The proposed deal would see a return to the 2004 Ukrainian Constitution, which would be restored within 48 hours and entail a restriction of presidential powers, Ukrainian broadcaster ICTV reported, citing a copy of the agreement.

A presidential election would also be held before December 2014.


1335 GMT: Some breaking news – last night the Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, spent most of the day meeting, but did not have enough members, a quorum in legal terms, to pass legislation. Right now there are two stories that deserve far more press attention than they are getting. This first is the story we’ve covered in recent updates. The Ukrainian parliament, or Rada, has been meeting all day. However, most of those present were members of the opposition parties. In fact, there were many reports that many MPs from the President’s Party of Regions had fled the country. Regardless, they were not present at the Rada session.
At the last minute, however, several more members of the Rada showed up. With 34 members of the Party of Regions present, the Rada had a quorum, and could legally pass laws.

And they did — banning the military actions of the police, and declaring that all protesters were to immediately be released from prison (see yesterday’s analysis here).

But the law to ban police action would first need to be signed by the head of parliament, and then the president. If the president rejected the legislation, the bill would go back to the Rada where it could be passed if it had enough support. As we said yesterday, this was largely symbolic, but when a country stands on the edge of a knife, symbolism is very important, and now it seems that the first hurdle may have been cleared:

More details when we have them.


1333 GMT: To drive home our point (previous update), William Booth of the Washington Post just tweeted this:

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1320 GMT: Whatever happens on the political front, there remains a fundamental reality in Kiev, and elsewhere – the protesters don’t want to go anywhere. If a condition of any deal or ceasefire is the removal of the protesters, it will almost certainly collapse. In fact, as is often the case with these situations, the protesters in the squares don’t necessarily follow the commands of a single leader. In fact, back in November we translated an analysis about how most of the protesters are apolitical, and do not look to the opposition leaders as their own. This was confirmed in our interview with ksana Forostyna, executive editor for Krytyka Journal (think Ukraine’s London Review of Books). This means that regardless of backroom deals, the protesters remain, and if some of them turn violent, will the government allow that to collapse the prospects for peace?

And remain they do. This is Maidan today:

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1315 GMT: We can’t confirm the details of this map, but one of the concerns is that this crisis turns increasingly into an east-vs-west conflict, which could raise the specter of civil war. the western province of Lviv Oblast, the 5th most populous region in Ukraine, has already declared political autonomy, so the east-west tension is already high:

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1309 GMT: Meanwhile, some shops are open across Ukraine, but many are closed, and the ones that are open are being overwhelmed by demand and being choked of their supply. Here is a shot taken last night of one store shelf, but similar scenes can be seen across the country:

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1304 GMT: FT reports on the prospects of peace, according to the Polish :

Poland’s prime minister Donald Tusk sounded a cautious note, stressing that the draft agreement touted by Mr Yanukovich had yet to be approved by the opposition. There is a risk that the “worst case scenario can still materialise in Ukraine,” he said according to Reuters.

But then the Polish Minister has reportedly delivered dark tidings while he thought nobody was listening:


1227 GMT: Finally, some good news:


1225 GMT: Russia has already threatened to invade Crimea, the Financial Times reports, citing a senior Kremlin official: “If Ukraine breaks apart, it will trigger a war,” the official said. “They will lose Crimea first [because] we will go in and protect [it], just as we did in Georgia.”

And John Schindler, a former NSA analyst, says that Vladimir Putin is meeting with top Russian intelligence and military officials:


1218 GMT: Yanukovych, apparently buckling under the pressure of seeing officials from his Party of Regions either resign or vote against him in the Rada, has announced early elections for Ukraine. Though the details are sketchy. The AP reports:

He gave no time frame, however, and it’s unclear whether his belated concessions will be enough to hold off protesters who have occupied a piece of Kiev and government buildings around the country in a nationwide battle over the identity of their country.

The Kyiv Post notes that the opposition has already rejected this offer:

Early reaction to Presidenti Viktor Yanukovych’s deal is not good. Apparently, the foreign ministers from France, Germany and Poland left overnight talks with Yanukovych saying there was no deal. Then the Yanukovych this morning started leaking an outline of an agreement: coalition government within 10 days, change in constitution by September to a stronger former of parliamentary republic and possibly early presidential elections in December, only a month or so before the next regularly scheduled election.