Emerging Europe

Ukraine president agrees to early poll, S&P downgrades


Ukraine's presidency said on Friday it had reached a deal with the opposition to end the crisis in the country which has seen more than 70 people killed in violent clashes.

In a statement made Friday the country's beleaguered president, Viktor Yanukovych, announced plans to hold an early presidential election, make changes to the constitution to limit is power, and form a national unity government.

Yanukovych's statement came after all-night talks with the opposition and foreign ministers from Germany, France and Poland to resolve the crisis in which 77 people have been killed in gun battles this week between protesters and police.

(Read more: EU imposes sanctions as Kiev returns to flames)

"In these tragic days, when Ukraine has suffered such heavy losses, when people have been killed on both sides of the barricades, I consider it my duty in the light of the holy memory of the dead to declare that there is nothing more important than human life," he said in a written statement.

"And there are no steps that we should not take to restore peace in Ukraine," he said in the statement, published on the presidential website.

Anti-government protesters clash with police in Kiev on February 18, 2014.
Anatolii Stepanov | AFP | Getty Images

Earlier on Friday ratings agency Standard & Poor's cut Ukraine's sovereign rating for the second time this year as the violence looked set to continue and funding from Russia is no longer certain.

S&P said the political situation in Ukraine has "deteriorated substantially" and in the nation is likely to default in the "absence of significantly favorable changes in circumstances, which we do not anticipate."

The agency lowered Ukraine's long-term foreign currency sovereign credit rating by one notch to "CCC" just weeks after the cutting the country's long and short-term foreign currency ratings to 'CCC /C' at the end of January.

(Read more: Ukraine clashes kill 21 more, EU talks shifted)

"In our view, the expected financial support from Russia is becoming increasingly uncertain and dependent on the outcome of the deteriorating political situation in Ukraine," S&P said in a statement.

The ratings agency said that a "conciliatory end to the political stand-off is now out of reach" and the future and the Russian government's support for Ukraine is "tied to the current leadership and its political orientation away from the EU and toward Russia."

'Democracy will win' in Ukraine: Protestor

"As a result of the intensifying political turmoil in Ukraine, we consider that continued Russian support up to the committed $15 billion is increasingly uncertain," they said.

Timothy Ash, the head of EM (ex-Africa) research at Standard Bank in London said the best case from a market perspective is now early elections, but Ukraine also has to address the issue of debts to Russia.

(Read more: Obama warns of consequences as Ukraine battle rages)

Ukraine has scrapped a $2 billion bond sale according to the Irish Stock Exchange. Earlier this week, the Russian ministry of finance said it planned to buy $2 billion in Ukrainian bonds under its "bail bond" program this week.

"I guess as expected....the Russian money is soft" said Ash. "Interesting that the 3 EU FMs [foreign ministers] are bringing Russia into negotiations to try and help a deal stick, and yet Moscow failed to deliver on the $15 billion bail bond programme," he added.

"The securitized lending through the 'bail bond' creates yet another challenge due to cross default clauses - presumably this is why the lending took this form," he said.

By CNBC's Jenny Cosgrave: Follow her on Twitter @jenny_cosgrave