Ukraine's defense minister has told his US counterpart that the country's army would not use force against protesters in Kiev, a Pentagon spokesman said Friday.
In a phone call with Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel earlier Friday, Ukrainian Defence Minister Pavlo Lebedev said "his forces would not use arms against the Ukrainian people," press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby said in a statement.
The minister "assured" Hagel that the armed forces "remain the protectors of the Ukrainian people" and their deployment inside the country was solely "focused on protecting defense facilities and equipment," Kirby said.
Hagel welcomed the agreement reached between the Ukrainian government and opposition leaders and "commended the government's decision to keep the military on the sidelines of the crisis thus far and urged continued restraint," the statement said.
Lebedev also expressed appreciation for Washington's role in talks to resolve the crisis in Ukraine, it said.
Hagel had tried to confer with his counterpart for several days since violence escalated on the streets of Kiev but his requests had been rebuffed by the defense ministry until Friday, US officials said.
Ukraine's embattled President Viktor Yanukovych signed a deal Friday with the opposition in a bid to end the country's worst crisis since independence, after three days of bloodshed that left nearly 100 protesters dead.
His decision to hold early elections and form a new unity government while granting amnesty for those involved in the violence was met with scepticism or even hostility by nearly 40,000 protesters who gathered on central Kiev's main square.