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An anti-government protester is seen outside the destroyed building of the security service in Lviv February 19, 2014.

STRINGER/Reuters

As the grim mayhem continues in Kiev and spreads across Ukraine, new parliamentary and presidential elections are needed more than ever. They may be the only way to avoid a civil war.

On Wednesday night, President Viktor Yanukovych announced a truce with opposition leaders, leading to negotiations intended to stabilize Ukraine. This is a welcome start, though it could turn out to be yet another equivocation from Mr. Yanukovych. This week's sudden crackdown showed his cynicism and perfidy. On Tuesday, constitutional changes were to be considered in the parliament. Instead, the debate was cancelled, police presented an ultimatum demanding that protesters leave Independence Square in Kiev, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia conveniently came through with $2-billion, an instalment on his promised $15-billion financial-rescue package for Ukraine – a promise which led Mr. Yanukovych to tilt toward Russia last year, sparking the protest movement.

It is ominous that Mr. Yanukovych has dismissed General Volodymyr Zamana, the commander of the armed forces, who reportedly had said the army should not limit protesters' rights. Until now, a ruthless repression by the military, such as the one in Tiananmen Square in 1989 in Beijing, seemed unlikely. But earlier on Wednesday, the Defence Ministry threatened a nationwide "anti-terrorist" campaign involving the army. Mr. Yanukovych must negotiate with the opposition, and open the door to new elections. His only other option appears to be clinging to power through violence.

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