KIEV | A breakthrough peace deal for Ukraine halted two days of violence that had turned the center of the capital into a war zone and killed 77 people, bringing sweeping political change that met many demands of the pro-European opposition.
Russian-backed President Viktor Yanukovich agreed to give up powers, hold early elections and form a government of national unity. Parliament voted for changes to the legal code that could see the release of Yanukovich’s jailed rival, opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko.
By nightfall, opposition leaders who signed the deal were addressing peaceful crowds from a stage in Independence Square, which for the previous 48 hours had been an inferno of blazing barricades and protesters were shot dead by police snipers.
Although the flames were out, the crowd was still defiant, holding aloft open coffins of slain demonstrators and making speeches denouncing the opposition leaders for shaking hands with Yanukovich.
The Ukraine crisis began with protests in November after Yanukovich turned his back on a far-reaching economic deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia instead.
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