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In Kiev, Leaders Ink A Deal — But Will The People Follow?


This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Audie Cornish.

An uneasy calm settled over Kiev today since opposition leaders signed a peace deal with Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovych. But after three days of fighting left scores of people dead, protesters are still trying to decide if the deal is worth the sacrifice. Despite their demands, Yanukovych remains in place, although there will be early elections.

The Ukrainian parliament also voted to reduce his powers and to allow the release of his bitter rival from prison, former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. A move welcomed by Kiev's Independent Square.


UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Foreign language spoken)

CORNISH: NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Kiev and joins us now. And, Soraya, what more can you tell us about what's in this deal?

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Well, as you mentioned, there'll be early elections, in fact, no later than December. But that's something that's certainly a sticking point because elections would have actually taken place just a few months later, in March 2015. There also will be constitutional reforms. They, in fact, voted tonight to go back to the 2004 constitution, which gives parliament more power. But there's also a request there that the square be cleared, that protesters go home.

CORNISH: And what's the reaction of the people who have been fighting in Independent Square to the news that Yanukovych would stay, at least for now?

NELSON: Well, that certainly was not popular with them. There were a lot of mixed emotions about the deal. On one hand, they welcomed the fact that the Europeans took such a strong interest in negotiating something, and that everyone was actually standing up for all the violence that had gone on. But at the same time, few trust that this deal will end the crisis. This is what protester Anna Lunochkina had to say...

ANNA LUNOCHKINA: As a lot of people here on Maidan say that it's too late for such actions now, and so many people have died. So now, it will not satisfy everyone.

NELSON: In fact, she and every other person I interviewed say they won't leave the square - which, of course, is part of the deal - until Yanukovych leaves office. Some say they like to see that happen as early as tomorrow.

CORNISH: Meanwhile, the human cost of this agreement has been high. I mean, is there a sense, is there a demand for revenge?

NELSON: Well, certainly, a lot of the people I spoke to said that they would like to see this man killed. I mean, that some sniper should take him out. I'm not saying that they necessarily wanted to do it. But there's just such anger over the deaths. There were funerals and memorial services held today in the square and elsewhere for the victims of yesterday's violence. At this point, there's a lot of bitterness. And it just seems that a political settlement isn't going to bring them the justice that they're looking for.

CORNISH: And, Soraya, going back to that cheering we heard after the announcement about Yulia Tymoshenko, was that for her or is that because she is one of the fiercest critics of President Yanukovych?

NELSON: I definitely think the latter. I mean, this is a woman who was sent to jail because of corruption-related accusations. Now, granted there was a political element to them, but she wasn't exactly the most popular politician. But at this stage, anyone who's a Yanukovych enemy is sort of seen as a hero.

CORNISH: Lastly, Soraya, give us a sense of just how sustainable this agreement can be, I mean, especially given the divisions in the country.

NELSON: Well, as I mentioned, people in the square, even if they were somewhat happy about the deal or about a negotiated settlement, they're not leaving. And then you also have a lot of people in the square who are part of the far right or ultranationalistic movements who were not part of the negotiations. And they've been involved in a lot of the violence, so they certainly present a challenge to this. But I think most important is the fact that the Russians have not signed off on this deal. And so, it's really unclear whether this deal is sustainable.

CORNISH: That's NPR Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson in Kiev. Thanks so much, Soraya.

NELSON: You're welcome, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson
Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.
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