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Agreement in Kiev but protesters want more

Protesters express anger at deal with government but calm has returned to the capital.

Last updated: 22 Feb 2014 12:16
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A deal with the government has met some of the protesters' demands [Kristina Jovanovski/Al Jazeera]

Kiev, Ukraine - Protesters in Ukraine are upset at opposition leaders for a deal struck Friday with President Viktor Yanukovich however relative calm was restored in the capital after days of fighting which left at least 77 dead.

Fatherland party MP Lesya Orobets told Al Jazeera she accepts that demonstrators are not happy at the compromise but negotiations are not done.

Not the final deal

"Right now we are doing our best to ensure that it is not the final deal but it's the first step… We cannot get everything on [this] step," says Orobets, whose party is led by Orange Revolution figure Yulia Tymoshenko.

"We will get as far as we want but that will take time and negotiations."

Orobets said opposition leaders wanted to strike a deal as quickly as possible to ensure the safety of protesters and return some order to Ukraine.

"It's a good show for both [the] civilised world and foreign investor that sooner or later you can get justice in this country."

One of the priorities will be to replace the prosecutor general who dealt with the jailing of former Prime Minister Tymoshenko and handled the legal issues surrounding the three-month crisis, according to Orobets.

She also stated the country needs "guarantees from [the] western world… that Russia will keep [its] hands off Ukraine".

In November, demonstrators took to the streets after the president accepted a bailout deal with Russia at the expense of a trade agreement and closer ties with the European Union.

On Friday, a deal was reached which met some of the key demands by the opposition, including an early election.

While protesters remain at Independence Square, known in Ukraine as the Maidan, signs of calm did return to Kiev. Some shops and underpasses that had been closed reopened and medical centres in the protest zone were relatively quiet.

One of the main reasons protesters dislike the deal is because they may have to wait up to eight months for an election.

However, Taras Kuzio, a Ukraine expert at the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies at the University of Alberta, believes dissent remains too strong to wait that long and the country will head to the polls in the summer.

"I think the elections will be sooner... because that is the popular mood, and I think Yanukovich will have to leave the country or go to jail," he says. "The anger and the mood against him is so great he will not be able to stay in the country."

He adds that if an election were called soon, the opposition would win in a landslide both in terms of parliamentary seats and the presidency.

Release of Tymoshenko

Another major victory for the opposition was parliament's move to release Tymoshenko after being jailed in 2011 over controversial allegations of corruption.

However, Kuzio believes there will now be a power struggle within the opposition and it will come down between Tymoshenko, who represents the more radical side of the movement, and former boxer turned politician Vitali Klitschko who is more moderate.

Many protesters do not trust the president to keep his word and activists fear what he could do if he remains in power.

Valeriy Kozlov is one of them. On Friday, he came to the protester-controlled city hall to wait for instructions from a militant organisation he is joining named the Self-Defence group.

"It's the most important group," he said. "The more force we can show the more confidence we have."

He believes Yanukovich is using this deal to stall for time and think of his next move.

"Their criminals, their gangsters, you cannot have a deal with them... They're terrorists and there can be no negotiation," he says. "Any time they take a break for negotiation they're using this time to regroup and they're using this time to invent some tricks."

Kuzio understands the demonstrators' suspicion over how genuine the president is in his compromise with the opposition.

"I'm still sceptical because he is a serial liar… We can't trust him to fulfill the agreement. He is now in retreat and he is losing power," he says.

However, he adds Yanukovich's political career is over and his own base is deserting him.

"There's a lot of people out there who would like to do him physical harm."

Eugeniy Yelensky is another protester who is remaining vigilant despite the deal. On Friday, he was at Independence Square to guard it after the week's battle with police.

Later in the evening, he will meet up with friends to organise how they will defend their district, he says.

Funeral procession

But first he is joining hundreds in a funeral procession down Kiev's main street, where protesters have been camping out.

As two coffins are carried along the road, cars honk their horns and the crowd cheers "Glory to Ukraine". Some protesters in camouflage are lined up on the side, standing still. One man wears a white rosary over his protective vest.

"All those people who were killed were [mostly] young and brave and I would even say… the best people of our nation, the bravest ones," Yelensky says.

Earlier that day, he attended the funeral of one of his best friends, newspaper reporter Vyacheslav Veremiy, who was killed on Tuesday.

They knew each other for five years and met while working at a newspaper together, which Yelensky says was shut down due to censorship. Veremiy was 33 years old and had a wife and a four-year-old son.

According to Yelensky, his friend was in a car in central Kiev which was stopped and he was eventually shot. He later died at a hospital.

The Committee to Protect Journalists said unidentified masked men threw Molotov cocktails at Veremiy's taxi and beat him before shooting him in the chest.

"He was one of the friendliest people I know and a very professional journalist," says Yelensky.

While he believes the deaths in the past week have been tragic, he says it has helped the country define the principles it will be guided by.

"On one hand it is a very sad thing because a lot of people are dead… but on the other hand this helped our people to unite," he says. "We are ready and willing to fight for our rights."

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Al Jazeera
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