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Kerry to Meet With Ukraine Opposition in Munich

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Saturday with members of the Ukrainian opposition who have been leading anti-government protests in the country since November.

Kerry, on a visit to Germany, will hold talks with opposition politician Arseny Yatsenyuk and former boxing champion-turned-activist Vitali Klitschko.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian protesters were expressing outrage after opposition activist Dmytro Bulatov, missing since January 22, was found outside Kyiv Thursday with cuts and bruises to his face. Bulatov says he was kidnapped by unknown abductors and held for days before being abandoned in a forest. He says he made his way to a nearby village where he reached his friends by phone.

The United Nations human rights office has called on Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to investigate recent reports of deaths, kidnappings and torture during the nation's political unrest. A spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the commissioner is "appalled" by the reports.

President Yanukovych, who announced Thursday he has gone on sick leave for an acute respiratory infection and fever, issued a statement accusing opposition leaders of escalating the political crisis and saying the government has fulfilled its obligations to end the standoff, including a conditional amnesty for arrested protesters and replacing his prime minister.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry issued a statement quoting military officials as calling on President Yanukovych to take "immediate measures" to stabilize the situation in the country.

The statement, posted on the ministry's website, said that during a meeting Friday with Defense Minister Pavel Lebedev, military officials deemed "unacceptable" the "violent seizure of state institutions, interference with representatives of state and local governments to carry out their duties."

The statement quoted the officials as saying "further escalation of the conflict threatens the territorial integrity of the state," and calling on Mr. Yanukovych "as permitted by law to take immediate measures to stabilize the situation and achieve harmony in society."

On Sunday, Defense Minister Lebedev told Russia's Itar-Tass news agency said Ukraine's armed forces would not interfere in the country's political conflict.



Ukrainians took to the streets in November when President Yanukovych backed out of a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties to Russia.

Human Rights Watch has called on Ukraine's international partners to press Ukraine to investigate what the group calls "serious human rights violations" perpetrated between January 19 through 22. The rights group says it has documented 13 cases in which police beat journalists or medical workers at the protests during that time. It says Ukrainian nongovernmental groups have documented 60 such cases.

Human Rights Watch says available evidence indicates that in many cases, police deliberately targeted journalists and medics.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Wednesday he wants to wait for a new government in Ukraine before proceeding with a promised $15 billion loan to Ukraine along with substantial natural gas discounts.

Earlier this week, the Standard and Poor's rating agency downgraded Ukraine's credit rating, in part because of what it calls the country's "distressed civil society" and "weakened political institutions," and its questionable ability to repay its debts.

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