Talks begin to bring an end to months of clashes as the US steps up pressure by imposing travel bans on senior officials.
Protesters are still refusing to leave the Square in central Kiev
Ukraine’s president has announced a truce with the opposition after violent clashes with riot police killed at least 26 people.
A statement on Viktor Yanukovych’s website said: “Based on the results of the meeting, the sides announced a truce and the start of a negotiations process aimed at ending the bloodshed (and) stabilising the situation in the country for the benefit of civil peace.”
Mr Yanukovych earlier met with three opposition leaders: former economy minister Arseny Yatseniuk, far-right nationalist Oleh Tyahnibok and former boxer Vitali Klitschko.
Mr Yatseniuk said: “The storming of the Maidan (Independence Square) which the authorities had planned today will not take place. A truce has been declared. The main thing is to protect human life.”
Protesters protect themselves with shields from police water cannon
Sky’s Katie Stallard, in Independence Square, said it would be “naive” to think this is the end of the crisis.
“The two sides are simply so far apart. The key demand from the opposition is for the resignation of the President and tonight we are seeing him once again doing everything he can to stay in power.”
Events appeared to be taking a more sinister turn on Wednesday when the government announced an “anti-terror operation” against “extremist groups” it claims have seized buildings and arms and ammunition depots.
It followed a police assault on the protest camps by thousands of riot police using stun grenades and by water cannon on Tuesday. Demonstrators responded by hurling petrol bombs, fireworks and stones.
In the aftermath anti-government protesters and riot police were locked in a tense stand-off in the square, the focal point for the protests against Mr Yanukovych.
Viktor Yanukovych (left) with Russian president Vladimir Putin
The unrest began in November when he agreed with Russian calls to pull out of a planned trade agreement with the EU. Mr Yanukovych instead agreed to accept a Kremlin bailout for the struggling economy.
Tuesday’s move against the protesters by riot police caused concern among world leaders.
The US has imposed visa bans on 20 unnamed senior Ukrainian government officials believed to be responsible for the violent crackdown.
President Barack Obama earlier said “there will be consequences” if people step over the line.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister has labelled the violence “completely unacceptable”.
David Cameron added: “President Yanukovych should be under no doubt that the world is watching his actions and that those responsible for violence will be held accountable.”
The Ukrainian ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Office in London to discuss its “extreme concern about events in Kiev”, according to Sky sources.
The EU has called an extraordinary meeting of the bloc’s 28 foreign ministers to discuss the violence and the possibility of sanctions later. Measures could include asset freezes and travel bans.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has spoken with Russian President Vladimir Putin and said they agreed to “continue to do everything so there is no further escalation of violence”.
It is unclear if the truce will hold across the country. The unrest has spread to at least three cities in western Ukraine.
Police said protesters had seized regional administration headquarters in the cities of Ivano-Frankivsk and Lviv.
Reports also claimed the main police station in Ternopil had been torched and there were clashes in Sumy.
Thursday has been declared a day of mourning for those who have died in the worst unrest since the country gained independence in 1991.
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Tags: Arseny Yatseniuk, Europe, European Union, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Molotov cocktails, Oleh Tyahnibok, Putin, Russia, tear gas, Ternopil, truce, Ukraine, Vitali Klitschko, Vladimir Putin, water cannon, Yanukovych