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EU Talks With Government, Opposition End With 'Agreement'


The Interior Ministry said on February 20 that it was issuing combat weapons to security forces to be "used in accordance with the law."
The Interior Ministry said on February 20 that it was issuing combat weapons to security forces to be "used in accordance with the law."
Ukraine's presidential press service says an agreement on resolving the bloody political crisis has been reached following all-night talks involving President Viktor Yanukovych, the opposition, and EU ministers.

Russian mediator Vladimir Lukin also reportedly took part in the talks.

In a statement, it said the deal would be initialed at noon local time on February 21, but gave no details.

The opposition and three EU foreign ministers from Germany, Poland, and France did not immediately confirm that agreement had been reached.

Early on the morning of February 21, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski tweeted that "after negotiations through the night, talks ended" at 7:20 a.m. in Kyiv, but did not elaborate.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has since urged caution over talk of a deal, while the German Foreign Ministry said "very difficult negotiations" had taken place through the night and that a "break" was taking place to continue talks "later on."

Late on February 20, Ukraine's parliament voted to order riot forces to leave the streets and return to their barracks.

An RFE/RL correspondent says 236 lawmakers of the 450-seat legislative body backed the measure.

"The Ukrainian parliament rules first to condemn categorically the use of force which led to the deaths of Ukrainian people, to condemn torture, atrocities and other crimes against humanity," said Deputy Parliament Speaker, Ruslan Kushylinski.

Kushylinski added that the parliament also ruled "to put an immediate end to the use of force and to ban the use of any kind of weapons and special gear against Ukrainian citizens" as well as "to ban the antiterrorist operation in Ukraine, the decision of which was made by the security service of Ukraine."

However, members of Yanukovych's ruling Party of Regions stayed away, although some have reportedly switched over to the opposition.

LIVE BLOG: Crisis In Ukraine

Ukraine's Health Ministry says nearly 77 people have been killed and more than 500 injured since violence between security forces and government opponents erupted on February 18. This means at least 47 people died in clashes on February 20, the worst day of violence Ukraine has witnessed since gaining independence more than 20 years ago.

The victims include both demonstrators and security forces. Many of those killed reportedly died of gunshot wounds.

Earlier on February 20, acting Interior Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko said in a statement that he had signed an order to give police combat weapons to be "used in accordance with the law."

Zakharchenko urged "extremists" to hand over their weapons, and for opposition leaders to condemn radical actions. He also praised the restraint of police during assaults by angry protesters and thugs.

In another development, the Interior Ministry has accused "extremists" of capturing 67 security officers and holding them hostage.

The ministry says police have the right to use their weapons to free the hostages.

WATCH: Snipers pin down protesters, journalists in Kyiv.
Snipers Pin Down Protesters, Journalists In Ukraine's Capital
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Meanwhile in Brussels, European Union foreign ministers have agreed to impose sanctions targeting Ukrainian officials deemed responsible for this week’s violence and the use of excessive force.

The measures, approved at an extraordinary meeting on February 20, include visa bans and asset freezes. They also include restrictions on the export to Ukraine of antiriot equipment, such as batons, that could be used for repression.

No names of individuals subject to the sanctions were listed.

The EU's move follows the United States' announcement on February 19 that it was imposing sanctions on 20 Ukrainian officials deemed responsible for violence.

EU foreign-policy chief Catherine Ashton said the measures were necessary. "In the light of the deteriorating situation we decided as a matter of urgency that we need to look at target sanctions, we have agreed to suspend export licenses for equipment for internal repression," she said.

Before the meeting of EU ministers, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that an international response to the Ukrainian violence was essential.

"There has to be an international response to what has happened over the last few days and that is why we will be discussing sanctions, measures for those responsible for the violence," he said.

"It is time for people on all sides to turn away from violence but the Ukrainian government, of course, bears the greatest responsibility and particular responsibility to take the lead in making sure that it happens."

In Washington, the White House released a statement saying it was "outraged" at Ukrainian forces using automatic weapons against Ukrainian people.

The statement called on President Yanukovych to "immediately withdraw his security forces from downtown Kyiv and to respect the right of peaceful protest, and we urge protesters to express themselves peacefully."

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden told Yanukovych in a telephone call that Washington was ready to sanction officials responsible for the violence.

On February 20, announced a visa ban on senior Ukrainian officials it says are linked to violence against protesters.

With reporting by Reuters and AP
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