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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ukraine Rivals Set Election Date

ReutersSpeaker Oleksandr Moroz, Yushchenko and Yanukovych smiling on Sunday.
KIEV -- Ukraine's feuding president and prime minister on Sunday agreed to hold early parliamentary elections on Sept. 30, defusing a months-long political crisis that had threatened to escalate into violence.

"A decision has been reached which is a compromise," President Viktor Yushchenko told reporters after emerging from more than eight hours of tense talks early Sunday. "Now we can say that the political crisis in Ukraine is over."

Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych said the leaders agreed that the country cannot be allowed to slide into violence and that such political crises should be avoided in the future.

"We will do everything so that this doesn't happen again," Yanukovych said.

The standoff between Yushchenko and Yanukovych deepened last week when Yushchenko fired the prosecutor general, an ally of the prime minister, and sent troops to evict him, only to find riot police loyal to Yanukovych on hand to thwart them.

Yushchenko then asserted control over the nation's 32,000 Interior Ministry troops and ordered several thousand officers to Kiev on Saturday, but most appeared to have been blocked outside the city by forces loyal to Yanukovych.

Kiev residents strolled around the capital Sunday, enjoying concerts celebrating the city's 1,525th anniversary and preparing for a major afternoon football match.

"I feel very positive about this," said Sergei Buldazhov, 57, a construction worker who was relaxing in the sun on a bench in downtown Kiev. "Of course we need peace; war is not something we want."

Allaying concerns over a possible physical confrontation between troops backing the rival leaders, Interior Minister Vasily Tsushko said he was sending riot police units that had been guarding government buildings in Kiev in recent days back to their home bases, Interfax reported.

Yushchenko also struck a conciliatory note after the talks, saying he had not sent additional interior troops toward Kiev.

He said he had dispatched 2,000 troops to maintain order during the festivities, which he described as routine procedure.

Yushchenko said the parties have agreed that the parliament would over the next several days vote on legislation needed to hold the elections, as well as on legislation needed to take the country out of the political impasse.