Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende was quick to support a new agreement struck Friday between opposition leaders in Ukraine and embattled Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, saying it represented “considerable progress” and “hopefully means that an even worse bloodbath will be avoided.”
Brende, who earlier this week announced that Norway would also impose sanctions against Ukraine in line with the European Union’s, told news bureau NTB that he hoped the agreement would also be accepted by “the demonstrators in the streets,” even though it means Yanukovych will remain as president until new elections are held later this year.
“After the bloodbath we’ve already been witness to this week, it’s positive those involved in the conflict now have an agreement,” Brende told NTB. “If the agreement moves forward, it means we can launch a new chapter in Ukraine’s history.”
Norway’s foreign ministry had earlier in the day issued travel warnings to Norwegian citizens, urging them not to travel to Ukraine or stay there if they already were in the country, unless it was absolutely necessary. The violence of the past few days and the unpredictable situation since shooting broke out between demonstrators, police and soldiers made the country far too dangerous. Norwegians already in Ukraine were asked to register with the Norwegian Embassy in Kiev and monitor the embassy’s website.
Brende said that Norway, which has had close ties to Kiev since Viking times, was giving the EU much credit for pushing through agreement, which calls for a ceasefire, constitutional changes that will leave the president with fewer powers and, most importantly, new national elections before December. Yanukovych, accused by some European leaders as having “blood on his hands” after snipers shot and killed demonstrators earlier in the week, sat for 20 hours in meetings with opposition leaders and foreign ministers from the EU countries of Poland, Germany and France. Poland is said to have played an important role in the negotiations, and Brende was full of praise.
It remained immediately unclear how the agreement would be received during the weekend by demonstrators, and how Russian leaders will react to it. Much of the conflict is rooted in whether Ukraine should be more closely allied with Russia in the east or the EU in the west, while several Ukrainians living in Oslo have said that it’s really all about democracy: Those who want a democratic Ukraine and those who don’t.