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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yanukovych Agrees to Early Vote

ReutersYushchenko, left, and Yanukovych shaking hands after reaching a deal Friday.
KIEV -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych agreed Friday to hold early parliamentary elections, apparently ending a weeks-long political crisis.

But the two leaders said the details -- and the date -- were still to be worked out. The president suggested the vote could be held by July, while the prime minister said fall was more likely.

The agreement is a major victory for Yushchenko, whose April 2 decision to dissolve the parliament and call early elections was a huge risk and looked in danger of backfiring as it plunged the country into political crisis.

Yushchenko called the agreement "the answer that the nation was waiting for."

Yanukovych told thousands of supporters gathered on Kiev's Independence Square -- where they had protested daily since the president's April 2 order -- that he had decided "there is no other way to solve this crisis except by holding democratic and fair elections."

While Yushchenko emerged as the winner in this fight, he goes into a larger battle for control over the next parliament weaker than his rival. Opinion polls put Yanukovych's party ahead, and the pro-Western parties that supported Yushchenko during the 2004 Orange Revolution remain fractured.

"Those who like elections, who initiated them, will get an answer from you about who today must be in power in Ukraine," Yanukovych told supporters.

After Friday's meeting, Yushchenko said he and Yanukovych had agreed to set up a working group that would decide by Monday what laws needed to be adopted and when the election would take place. Previously, Yushchenko had set the election date for June 24.

Setting the new date could still become a sticking point.

Yushchenko said he had proposed a fast-track approach, suggesting that the parliament could reconvene on Tuesday to adopt all the necessary changes to election law and release money to fund the election.

Yushchenko said he would come to the parliamentary session hall to sign the bills into law. He carefully avoided saying when the parliamentary vote could be held, but suggested it could come in about 60 days, which would be early July.

Yanukovych, meanwhile, said in an interview with Rossia television that he believed elections were not possible before the fall and suggested he favored an October date. He said, ultimately, it must be up to the parliament to decide.

While many details of what will happen next remained unclear, Ukrainians on both sides of the political divide applauded the agreement. The bloc of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and other pro-Western parties said they welcomed it, and some of the parties immediately began holding talks on uniting.

"It is correct because the longer this lasted, the worse it became," said Yanukovych supporter Svetlana Piven, 40. "Yanukovych will prove that he was right and the people will support him."