Ukrainian anti-government protesters, who have clashed with riot police in recent days, agreed Thursday to observe a truce while awaiting the results of talks between opposition leaders and President Viktor Yanukovych.
The pause in the street battles, which the opposition says have left six demonstrators dead and hundreds wounded, was achieved at the urging of former heavyweight boxing champ and leader of the opposition UDAR (Punch) party, Vitali Klitschko, and will be in effect until 8:00 p.m. Thursday.
"I'll be back to inform you about the negotiations (with Yanukovych)," Klitschko told demonstrators positioned opposite a row of riot police guarding government buildings, local media reported.
Klitschko said the riot police pledged not to fire stun grenades while the truce is in effect.
He told demonstrators not to tear down the barricades they have erected - some as tall as four meters (13 feet) - in downtown Kiev.
During the talks, the opposition will call for the repeal of anti-protest laws that entered into force Wednesday, the removal from office of not only Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko but the entire Cabinet, and early presidential elections, Klitschko said.
"The chance of that happening is slim, but it exists," Klitschko said, referring to the possibility of the vote, currently scheduled for Feb. 26, 2015, being moved up.
Anti-government protests, which had been mostly peaceful until Sunday, erupted in Ukraine in November after the government backed away from plans to ink a free-trade deal with the European Union.
Yanukovych later signed a $15 billion aid package with Russia and negotiated a deal to enable Ukraine, a former Soviet state, to purchase natural gas from its neighbor at a steep discount.
This week's street battles followed a massive anti-government demonstration on Sunday, when more than 100,000 people gathered in Kiev's Independence Square to demand that Yanukovych and Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resign and to denounce new anti-protest legislation passed last week by ruling-party lawmakers that they say violates basic rights. EFE