Friday, February 21, 2014

Embattled Ukraine: Kiev’s vicious cycle of violence rages on LIVE UPDATES February 21 , 2014

Bank Runs Begin In Ukraine As Russia's Largest Bank Halts Lending

Tyler Durden's picture

Six months ago a "glitch" halted all ATM withdrawals, and Credit and Debit card transactions for Russia's largest bank but today, the CEO of the huge bank has no such "glitch" to blame:
We suspect that whether an agreement is in place or not, this will continue.

German foreign minister denies deal has been made to end Ukraine crisis

'No result,' says Frank-Walter Steinmeier, despite President Viktor Yanukovych claiming 'political agreement' with opposition
Anti-government protesters man the front line on Kiev's Independence Square
Anti-government protesters man the front line on Kiev's Independence Square on Friday morning, amid rumours of a political resolution. Photograph: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Several hours after Ukraine's embattled president announced early elections and promised to form a coalition government, Germany's foreign minister said a deal had not yet been reached to resolve the bloody crisis in Kiev that has left up to 100 people dead over three days of violent protest.
Emerging from Victor Yanukovych's office after hours of tense negotiations between government and opposition representatives, Frank-Walter Steinmeier told the Guardian a deal had not yet been reached.
"No result," he said, adding that he was not going home yet. Steinmeier then left for a new round of talks with opposition representatives.
As the government's midday deadline for an announcement of a deal passed, details of the proposed agreement remained slight. Despite opposition and international trust in Yanukovych standing at an all-time low , the presidential administration had claimed a "political agreement" had been reached during negotiations that ran throughout the night with the mediation of the foreign ministers of Germany, Poland, and France.
The European mediators were more cautious. The Germans had said the talks had been "very difficult", run all night and had stopped for a break after 7am. Radek Sikorski, the Polish foreign minister, also voiced scepticism that a deal had been reached that could resolve the crisis.
An aerial view shows the anti-government protesters camp in Independence Square in central KievAn aerial view shows the anti-government protest camp in Independence Square. (Vasily Fedosenko/Reuters)
He said Ukraine was at a "delicate moment" and "all sides need to remember that compromise means getting less than 100%."
It is not clear if protesters will accept the deal as it stands. Anton Solovyov, 28, an IT worker in the central square said: "This is just another piece of paper. We will not leave the barricades until Yanukovich steps down. That's all people want."
Following the worst bloodshed in the country's 23 years of independence, Kiev awoke to a bright, sunny and peaceful day, with the city centre firmly in the hands of the anti-Yanukovych protest movement and the riot police, ubiquitous until Thursday morning, barely to be seen.
As Yanukovych claimed a settlement had been reached, shots rang out through Independence Square as police clashed with protestors.
"Participants in the mass disorder opened fire on police officers and tried to burst through in the direction of the parliament building," a police statement said.
Opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk, speaking in the parliament building a mile away, claimed armed police had entered the premises but the deputy speaker claimed they had been forced out.
Thousands remained on Independence Square or Maidan, the epicentre of the resistance after police fled the square in pitched battles on Thursday. The protesters have vastly expanded the area of the city centre under their control and have quickly built huge barricades and reinforced positions to keep the security forces at bay.
Protesters remained on the square throughout the night, with no let-up at all in the speech-making, singing and praying led by the stage at the centre of the square.
Parliament assembled and is likely to see rowdy scenes as the city and the country digest the shock of this week's bloodshed, which has hardened positions in the protest movement and reinforced the resolve to topple him.
At the moment it is difficult to see how Yanukovych will recover any authority or how the government will re-establish control over the centre of the capital.

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LIVE: about 40 police officers from Lviv (Western Ukraine) join protesters in barricades in Kiev

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Signs of cracks in Ukraine government: 40 police officers march to join protesters in

Ukraine's President Yanukovich declares early elections, constitutional reforms

Published time: February 21, 2014 10:54
Edited time: February 21, 2014 11:29

Independence Square in central Kiev, February 21, 2014. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)
Independence Square in central Kiev, February 21, 2014. (Reuters/Vasily Fedosenko)
Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovich has announced early presidential elections. He also said that the constitution of 2004, which limits presidential powers, will be returned. This was one of the main demands by the opposition.
Yanukovich also said he will start the process of creating a national unity government.
The government and the opposition leaders have been negotiating a deal throughout the night, following two days of violence that has seen 80 people killed. One of the conditions for the deal’s implementation is an end to the violence that has engulfed the country.
The Ukrainian constitution of 2004 limits the powers of the president and gives more authority to the parliament.
“I declare the initiation of early presidential elections. I also invoke a return to the Constitution of 2004 with the redistribution of powers in the direction of a parliamentary republic,” says the official statement on the presidential website.
“I summon to begin formation of the government of national trust,” declared the Ukrainian president.
Earlier the Ukrainian news outlet published the main details of the draft peace agreement between the Ukrainian authorities and the united opposition. The conciliation agreement was discussed yesterday by leaders of the united opposition and President Viktor Yanukovich.
The document specifies the major steps needed to be taken towards national reconciliation.
First and foremost it declares that the “constitutional takeover” of 2010 must be eliminated within 24 hours and the previous variant of the constitution adopted in 2004 must be returned. The document considers it necessary to “polish up” the 2004 constitution designed for the transition of Ukraine from a presidential form of government to a parliamentary one.
Formation of a new coalition government must be fulfilled within 10 days.
Official Kiev must undertake an obligation to conduct a joint investigation together with the EU of the “crimes against peaceful civilians” in downtown Kiev in December 2013 – February 2014 that took the lives of approximately 80 people.

Ukraine crisis deal on knife-edge amid standoff

KIEV Fri Feb 21, 2014 6:38am EST
An aerial view shows the anti-government protesters camp in Independence Square in central Kiev, February 21, 2014. REUTERS-Vasily Fedosenko
1 OF 12. An aerial view shows the anti-government protesters camp in Independence Square in central Kiev, February 21, 2014.


(Reuters) - Ukraine's pro-European opposition sought last minute changes to a deal with Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich intended to resolve the former Soviet republic's political crisis, but EU mediators said they still expect an agreement on Friday.

The German and Polish foreign ministers were in Kiev to try to broker an end to the worst violence since Soviet days amid a stand-off between riot police and anti-government protesters who have occupied a central square for nearly three months.
The sprawling nation of 46 million with a shattered economy and endemic corruption is at the center of a geopolitical tug-of-war between Russia and the European Union.
Diplomats said a compromise drafted in all-night negotiations involved appointing a transitional government, with a reformed constitution by September reducing presidential powers, and fresh elections by the end of the year.
Whether such a gradual transition would be acceptable to grassroots activists who want Yanukovich out now was unclear.
"This is just another piece of paper. We will not leave the barricades until Yanukovich steps down. That's all people want," said Anton Solovyov, 28, an IT worker protesting in the central square.
A senior EU diplomat said the president and opposition leaders were expected to sign the deal on Friday, even though the opposition still wanted some changes.
Earlier, police said in a statement that anti-government militants fired on security forces near the central Independence Square, scene of a three-month-old protest vigil.
However, there was no independent confirmation of such an incident and no report of casualties.
The square, known as Maidan or "Euro-Maidan", appeared peaceful, with thousands of demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans interspersed with patriotic singing.
After the visiting ministers suspended talks at dawn, the presidential press service said an agreement with the opposition would be signed at noon (1000 GMT) but it gave no details. That time passed with no word of a signing.
Armed police briefly entered the parliament building while lawmakers were holding an emergency session but they were quickly ejected, opposition leader Arseny Yatsenyuk said.
Ukraine, a sprawling country of 46 million, faces the risk of civil war or even a break-up, and rage has spread even into the parliamentary chamber. Members exchanged punches when speaker Volodymyr Rybak tried to adjourn proceedings.
Opposition deputies were angered because it would mean delaying a possible vote on a resolution pressing for constitutional changes to restrict the president's powers. The speaker left the chamber and debate continued.
If signed and implemented, the deal would be a setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has made tying Ukraine into a Moscow-led Eurasian Union a cornerstone of his efforts to reunite as much as possible of the former Soviet Union.
Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, whose foreign minister is one of the mediators, cautioned that there was only a tentative accord so far. "The agreement has not yet been reached. What's been settled is the agreement's draft," Tusk told reporters in Warsaw.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who was involved in the mediation effort earlier in the night, said the opposition needed to consult.
"The opposition wants to consult with some of its members, which is entirely understandable," he told Europe 1 radio. "In this sort of situation, as long as things haven't really been wrapped up, it's important to remain very cautious."
After 48 hours in which the fate of Ukraine was fought out in the square, with at least 77 people killed, Yanukovich was rapidly losing support.
The deputy chief of the armed forces resigned and opposition deputies in parliament voted to overturn severe anti-terrorist laws enacted by Yanukovich's government this month and ordered security forces back to barracks.
In another sign of the severity of the crisis, ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut Ukraine's credit rating for the second time in three weeks on Friday, citing the increased risk of default.
S&P said latest developments in the crisis made it less likely that Ukraine would receive desperately needed Russian aid. Ukraine cancelled a planned issue of 5-year Eurobonds worth $2 billion, it told the Irish Stock Exchange where the debt would have been listed. Kiev had hoped Russia would buy the bonds to help it stave off bankruptcy.
The health ministry said 77 people had been killed since Tuesday afternoon, which meant at least 47 died in Thursday's clashes. That was by far the worst violence since Ukraine's independence.
On Thursday, EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels imposed targeted sanctions on Ukraine and threatened more if the authorities failed to restore calm.
In further diplomatic efforts, U.S. President Barack Obama spoke to German Chancellor Angela Merkel who in turn discussed Ukraine with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow has strongly opposed what it sees as Western interference in Moscow's sphere of influence in Ukraine.

Embattled Ukraine: Kiev’s vicious cycle of violence rages on LIVE UPDATES

Published time: February 18, 2014 15:03
Edited time: February 20, 2014 20:01

Kiev, February 20, 2014. (AFP Photo/Louisa Gouliamaki)
Kiev, February 20, 2014. (AFP Photo/Louisa Gouliamaki)
At least 75 people have died in the street violence, as the broken truce between the government and the opposition has turned the Ukrainian capital into bloody turmoil.

Friday, February 21

06:56 GMT:
The participants in the talks in Kiev have agreed on a deal to resolve the crisis, and are to sign it at 2pm Moscow time (10:00 GMT), the Ukrainian presidential administration told RIA-Novosti.
06:49 GMT:
One hundred and thirty security forces personnel have sustained gunshot wounds in Kiev over the last three days, the Ukrainian Interior Ministry told Itar-Tass. All in all, 565 people sought medical help, 410 of whom were hospitalized.
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Protester singing the national anthem at Independence Square @Ruptly