Nightly News   |  February 21, 2014

Ukraine’s Leader Weakened by Anti-Government Protests

The president of Ukraine appeared to give in, under pressure of new sanctions, and has signed a deal that he’s resisted for months.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening, i'm lester holt . in for brian who will be back in new york on monday, our top story tonight comes again from this part of the world where after days of anti-government protests and bloodshed and growing international pressure the government of ukraine has agreed to concessions, hoping to end the violence at a dangerous standoff that lasted months. the white house welcomed the deal but it could be seen as a setback here in neighboring russia which wants to keep ukraine in its circle of influence. president obama and putin spoke by phone about it at length today. meanwhile, tonight in the ukrainian capital, the protesters continue their siege of independence square where more than 70 people have died in the past 40 hours. our chief foreign correspondent richard engel is there.

>> reporter: good evening, lester, after so much bloodshed a deal has been reached that could bring ukraine more democracy but it still needs to be implemented and the city remains on edge. independent square today, living up to its name. protesters cleaning up. peaceful, but on alert. filling sandbags and building barricades in case the riot police come back. trust is gone here after central kiev became an inferno this week, protesters ringing themselves with bon fire to keep the riot police at bay. police gunning down scores of demonstrators. a tragedy that may have also been a tragic mistake for the government. under pressure of new sanctions from the u.s. and others and after all-night negotiations with russia, europe and the opposition, today, ukraine 's president, yanukovych appeared to give in signing a deal he has resisted for months, limiting his power and restoring parliamentary democracy . for this woman, the deal is not enough.

>> we should not have a dialogue.

>> reporter: this office manager says even early elections now scheduled for december are too late.

>> we want him to go right now.

>> reporter: others had even stronger feelings. shouting death to the dictator. some of yanukovych 's own police are starting to change sides. we found 40 officers who put down their guns and joined the protests. as twilight came, the mood grew somber. priests also now siding with the opposition led prayers for the dead . night has come and the protesters are still here. they believe they have yanukovych in a corner, that his compromise is a sign of weakness. and if they stay here they can get rid of him, ukraine 's pro-moscow ruler has been weakened by three terrible days and a few thousand demonstrators. and the president wants to keep going until the president is removed and some hard liners say they will resort to violence with weapons.