Is Peace A Done Deal in Ukraine?

Letter From Kiev

An anti-government protester looks out from the barricades in Independence Square in Kiev, February 21, 2014. Baz Ratner / Courtesy Reuters

With reports of more than 100 deaths, this week has been the deadliest since Ukraine’s protests began in November after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an association agreement with the European Union. On Friday, following talks mediated by the foreign ministers of France, Germany, and Poland, Yanukovych announced that a deal to end the violence had been reached. In a statement, he said that he had agreed to an early presidential election, a return to the 2004 Ukrainian constitution (which had limited the president’s powers in favor of parliament’s), and the formation of a national unity government.

Following initial uncertainty about whether the parties had, indeed, struck a deal and whether the opposition would accept it, by four in the afternoon local time, all three opposition leaders had signed the agreement in the presence of the European ministers. “We are about to sign,” Radek Sikorski, the foreign minister of Poland, tweeted just before the event. “Good compromise for Ukraine. Gives peace a chance. Opens the way to reform and to Europe. Poland and EU support it.”

On paper, the deal looks like a breakthrough; these are the very concessions that Ukraine’s opposition leaders have been demanding. Yet with uncertainty about when many of the deal's provisions could implemented -- and with little indication of whether the agreement will be acceptable to protesters on the Maidan, Kiev’s Independence Square -- it is still too soon to celebrate.

After all, this week’s shocking violence started on Tuesday as the Ukrainian parliament prepared to discuss a return to the 2004 constitution, a demand to which Yanukovych had already seemingly acceded in late January. Clashes nevertheless broke out between police and protesters trying to march on parliament. Following emergency talks with opposition leaders, Yanukovych announced a truce late Wednesday. Yet hopes that the violence had been curbed soon faded as the unrest continued in Kiev and the fatalities rose. In Lviv and other cities located in Ukraine’s west, meanwhile,

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