Ukraine President Announces Truce With Protesters

PHOTO: An anti-government protester, center,  throw a Molotov cocktail during clashes with riot police in Kievs Independence Square, the epicenter of the countrys current unrest, Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014.
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Following two days of bloody clashes in the streets of Kiev, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich announced a truce with opposition leaders and called for negotiations with protesters in an effort to prevent a civil war.

In a statement posted to his official Web site, Yanukovich said he met with opposition leaders, including boxer and parliamentarian Vitali Klitschko and pledged to end the fighting. At least 26 people, including 10 police officers, were killed in the violence.

The truce was announced about the same time the U.S. State Department said it had imposed visa bans on 20 Ukrainian individuals, including high-level government officials, who it said were directly responsible for the violence.

The Obama White House said, “A truce, if implemented, would be a welcome and positive step forward in pursuing that meaningful dialogue.” The State Department, which has worked to end the confrontation, called the truce a "glimmer of hope."

The parties declared a truce and began "negotiations aimed at cessation of bloodshed and stabilization of the situation in the country for the sake of civil peace," according to the statement.

The brief statement included no details about how the truce would be implemented.

The opposition has yet to formally comment on the agreement.

Following three months of reasonably peaceful protests, centered on whether Ukraine should orient its foreign policy towards Russia or the West, protesters clashed with riot police at Independence Square in Kiev on Tuesday.

Protesters set tires on fire and lobbed burning fireworks at police, lighting up the night sky over Kiev Tuesday night, as the report of stun grenades and gunfire echoed through the city's medieval streets.

Protesters pledged not to move from Independence Square despite the presence of 10,000 of riot officers. By this evening, much of the fighting had ended and protest leaders were invited for talks with the president.

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