News / Europe

White House Considers Sanctions on Ukraine as EU Talks Continue

  • Anti-government protesters shout "Glory to the Ukraine" as they man a barricade at Independence Square in Kyiv, Feb. 21, 2014.
  • A fire burns at the barricades on the outskirts of Independence Square in Kyiv, Feb. 21, 2014.
  • An anti-government protester sits and rest on a barricade at Independence Square in Kyiv, Feb. 21, 2014.
  • An anti-government protester stands atop a barricade at Independence Square in Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014.
  • Activists pay respects to protesters killed in clashes with police, Independence Square, Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • Activists pay respects to anti-government protesters killed in clashes with riot police in Kyiv's Independence Square, Feb. 20, 2014.
  • Anti-government protesters climb a barricade in central Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • Activists reinforce the barricades in Kyiv's Independence Square, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • Anti-government protesters build barricades around Independence Square during clashes with riot police, Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • An anti-government protester holds a firearm as he mans a barricade on the outskirts of Independence Square, Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • An anti-government protester wounded by firearms is carried to a makeshift clinic in central Kyiv, Ukraine, Feb. 20, 2014. 
  • An anti-government protester prepares to throw a car tire into the flames lit by protesters, Independence Square, Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014.
President Obama is considering a range of sanctions options in response to mounting violence and deaths in Ukraine. 

The White House Thursday expressed outrage at what it called "images of Ukrainian security forces firing automatic weapons on their own people."

A White House statement called on President Yanukovych to immediately withdraw security forces and respect the right of peaceful protest.  Washington also is urging protesters to express themselves peacefully.  

There are strong indications the Obama administration will announce additional steps, including possible financial sanctions, which the president would impose through executive order.  

WATCH: Related video from VOA's Zlatica Hoke
Western Leaders Blame Ukraine Government for Violencei
February 21, 2014 2:39 AM
The United States and the European Union have agreed to impose sanctions on the Ukrainian government officials considered to be responsible for the excessive use of force against anti-government demonstrations. Clashes between police and protesters in Ukraine's capital have continued despite a truce aimed at preventing further bloodshed. Some analysts say sanctions may not have a serious impact on the Russian-supported government. Zlatica Hoke reports.

This would be on top of visa restrictions announced on Wednesday targeting 20 Ukrainian government officials.

Deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the latest violence in Ukraine added a sense of urgency.

"Making a decision about sanctions, it can't just be knee-jerk action.  It is important for us to consider the range of consequences that could ensue from applying sanctions.  But again, there is a sense of urgency that is being felt because of the terrible violence we saw overnight," said Earnest.

Obama discussed the situation in Ukraine with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  They agreed, according to a statement, that it is critical for the United States, Germany and EU to stay in close touch on steps to support an end to the violence and a political solution.

Earnest indicated Obama would be having conversations with other world leaders "with a vested interest in peace and stability in Ukraine."  He said the U.S. and Russia share a common interest in this.  So far, Obama has not called Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the situation.

EU Efforts Continue

Three foreign ministers from the EU are in talks again with President Viktor Yanukovych on finding a way out of Ukraine's crisis.

France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius described the talks in Kyiv as "very difficult."

Fabius, along with the foreign ministers of Germany and Poland, arrived in the Ukrainian capital earlier on February 20 for talks with both the opposition and government.

After meeting with opposition leaders, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said progress was being made on a proposed road map to ease the crisis, which diplomats say would include forming a temporary government.

Ukrainian opposition members celebrate during the voting in parliament in Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014.Ukrainian opposition members celebrate during the voting in parliament in Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014.
Ukrainian opposition members celebrate during the voting in parliament in Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014.
Ukrainian opposition members celebrate during the voting in parliament in Kyiv, Feb. 20, 2014.
Late Thursday  Ukraine parliament voted for all Interior Ministry forces to withdraw from Independence Square return to their bases but there was no indication of when the measure would take effect because it would have to be implemented by the president's office and the Interior Ministry. 

​The EU foreign ministers will continue negotiations on Friday.

The European Union announced sanctions, including visa bans, asset freezes and restrictions on the export of anti-riot equipment, aimed at those who ordered or were involved in orchestrating violence.

Russia has criticized the European and U.S. moves, calling them “blackmail.”

Mounting casualties

The call came amid reports that dozens of people were killed in a new escalation of clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces in central Kyiv on Thursday.

Quoting the protesters' top medic, the Associated Press is reporting that up to 70 activists have been killed and 500 injured so far. Some of those killed were reportedly shot by government snipers.

Ukraine's Interior Ministry, meanwhile, reported that three police officers were killed Thursday. It said more than 50 police personnel had been hospitalized during the day, 30 of them with gunshot wounds. The ministry also said that protesters had captured 67 policemen.

Elsewhere, television footage from the western city of Lviv showed scenes of chaos, as anti-government protesters firebombed government buildings and some police declined to intervene.

Thursday's violence erupted just hours after President Viktor Yanukovych announced a truce with opposition leaders.

Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko said Thursday that police have been issued "combat weapons" to protect citizens and property from attacks, and for self-defense.

He called on "extremists" among the protesters to hand over their weapons and called on opposition leaders to "disassociate themselves" from "the radicals."

WATCH: US/Europe Condemn Ukraine Violence

US, Europe Condemn Violence in Ukraine, Consider Sanctionsi
February 20, 2014 12:24 PM
Witnesses in the Ukrainian capital say at least 17 people have been killed in fresh clashes that erupted between anti-government protesters and police, hours after President Viktor Yanukovych announced a truce with opposition leaders. Zlatica Hoke reports

In Moscow, the Kremlin announced that President Vladimir Putin was sending his human rights ombudsman, Vladimir Lukin, to Ukraine to mediate talks between President Yanukovych and the opposition. According to the Kremlin, the step was taken at the Ukrainian president's request..

President Yanukovych and the leaders of anti-government protests had agreed on a truce Wednesday. A statement on President Viktor Yanukovych's website said it is aimed at "ending the bloodshed and stabilizing the situation the interests of social peace."  It did not provide details. The opposition claims Yanukovych was trying to use the truce to allow for more security forces to be moved into Kyiv.

Army chief replaced

Hours before Wednesday's truce had been announced, the president fired his army chief and Ukraine's military declared a nationwide crackdown on what it called "extremist groups."  Yanukovych - the target of the protests - offered no explanation for the dismissal.

Separately, the Security Service of Ukraine announced an "anti-terrorist" operation, saying "radical elements" in the country had overrun government arms depots and seized weapons and munitions.  Local media quoted officials as saying they fear those stockpiles are being transported to the capital for use by protesters trying to force Yanukovych from power.

Security Service chief Oleksandr Yakymenko said municipal buildings, security offices and arms depots had been raided around the country.  He said 1,500 firearms and 100,000 rounds of ammunition had wound up "in the hands of criminals" over a 24-hour period.

Call to switch sides

Meanwhile, opposition leader Vitali Klitschko has called on police and soldiers to join the protesters.

"All who will switch sides and join the people, will have security guarantees," said he.

In a YouTube video statement, the former world boxing champion-turned politician also called on those in uniform to remember the oath they took.

"Don't allow yourselves to be used as tools in this war against the people, whom you swore to serve and protect. Show your human side! Refuse to execute unlawful orders by the authorities, against whom the country has risen up," said Klitschko.

He added that Yanukovych is not worth such sacrifice.

In an apparent sign of Yanukovych's eroding support, his hand-picked acting mayor of Kyiv, Volodymyr Makeyenko, announced Thursday that he was resigning from Yanukovych's ruling Party of Regions in protest over the 'bloodshed' in the capital.

Anti-government protests have been rocking Ukraine since late November, with activists calling for Yanukovych's ouster after he backed away from a trade deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned the deadly Ukraine protests as a "coup attempt."  He denied claims President Vladimir Putin was giving advice to Ukraine's president on how to handle the crisis and reiterated Moscow would not interfere with Ukraine's internal affairs.

With reporting by RFE/RL, Reuters, AP and AFP.

You May Like

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: Ross Nicholson
February 21, 2014 1:38 AM
Clogging up the capital and occupying government buildings is no way to behave in a democracy. The American government should never condone such tactics, either.
That being said, Europe should include both Russia and Ukraine, since they are all European people. We have a Eurasian Union in our collective future, too. We have all got to live together on this earth, or we will all die killing each other on this earth.

by: Ryk van Donselaar from: Canada
February 21, 2014 12:29 AM
Sanctions don't work and usually punish the people they're intended to help. They haven't worked with Syria, Iran, North Korea, Libya and the list goes on. They are simply an easy way out instead of concrete actions. I'm sure that having his travel plans threatened isn't high on the Ukrainian President at this moment.

by: screw you china from: USA
February 21, 2014 12:09 AM
Huang Jun of course you'd side with Russia. As if your country, aka industrial sector of the USA, is any better than Russia.

by: YangShihao from: China
February 20, 2014 10:43 PM
I guess the opposition leader is a careerist,or he would prevent other protesters from protesting goverment by violence,he know that use violence would be suffered from more violent revenge,but the fact is that he does not do this,he just wants to make use of people's blood to get more sympathy from the world and use western power to overthrow the goverment,than he would be the next ruler of Ukraine .

by: Huang Jun from: China
February 20, 2014 9:09 PM
Obama and the EU have proved themselved to be hypocritical and doubled-standard when they decided to impose sactions against Ukraine government. They have taken sides with the extremists and terrorists who are resorting to force, blackmailing and killing to grab power. Those criminals, who are shooting governent officers and policemen, robbing state properties and shooting reportes, must be punished right away! The extremist leader must be arrested and put on trial. We are on your side, Ukraine!
In Response

by: Anonymous
February 21, 2014 2:14 AM
What you say is dead on but despite the hypocrisy, they are right to impose sanctions on Ukraine if the government is opening fire on its people. We are certainly not on the side of Ukraine, we are on the side of the protesters who are being shot.

by: Kelly Brown from: CA
February 20, 2014 6:10 PM

Where are the true men of Russia? Where are the likes of Gorbachev and Yeltsin? Putin has returned Russia back into the evil empire. It didn't take long, did it?

Obama is a joke. He is visibly afraid of Putin. I pray for the good people of Ukraine that wish not to be enslaved again by evil.
In Response

by: Anonymous
February 21, 2014 2:16 AM
It could equally be argued that the US is an evil empire too which is a great threat to world peace, with its neo-imperial drone strikes and military invasions of foreign nation states such as Iraq who never posed a threat to the US.
In Response

by: Peter from: NY
February 21, 2014 12:34 AM
It is sad to see how naive Americans can be. There's no evil empire. One group of thugs is fighting another for land rights using nationalists and extremists of all sorts that are organized, trained and even armed. Freedom. As soon as this word is used you start seeing body bags. The sad part that Americans also pay for this

by: JKF2 from: GREAT NORTH (Canada)
February 20, 2014 3:19 PM
The media indicates that it has now clear evidence that the criminal gvmt has been using snipper; it is now completely clear that the intention of the criminal gvmt of Yanukovych was in fact to kill protesters; it was suspected for well over 5 or 8 days that the gvmt was using snippers to kill protesters, now evidence, claimed by the press, indicates that the criminal gvmt has been using snippers all along, no ifs or buts. The many people over the last two weeks, shot in the head/thorax, were all probably killed by the snippers. Although for over a week, the work of snippers was suspected, but due to lack of clear evidence, it was dismissed notwithstanding the nature of the wounds shown on some of the dead civilian demonstrators, resulting in their killings. It is now clear that the killings were initiated by the criminal gvmt. It is too bad that the forensics were not carried out, by credible independent international specialists, to see how many and for how long the snippers were in action, not a good turn of events for human rights; It is a very bad situation. On the balance, if media reports are true, the evidence now shows that the criminal gvmt initiated the policy of using live ammunition and snippers; this criminal Yanuk... Ukrainian gvmt needs to go! the sooner the better.

by: Anonymous
February 20, 2014 2:45 PM
What has to happen now is a complete uprising in Russia. No better time, it would be the best thing to happen in Russian history, and put Putin where he deserves to be, OUSTED. He is the reason of many many thousands of death across europe and the middle east.

by: Misha from: CA, USA
February 20, 2014 1:10 PM
There is nothing peaceful about these protesters. I'd like to see any law enforcement agency in the US leave their post and let molotov-throwing rioters continue to "protest peacefully". The White House is full of hypocrites, that have nothing to do with what the majority of the well informed public in the US thinks.
In Response

by: jason from: san diego
February 20, 2014 7:19 PM

by: HUANG JUN from: China
February 19, 2014 11:45 PM
Those extremists and rioters back by the US and the EU must be punished and cracked down to restore peace and order. They are not peaceful demonstrators as described by Obama. They have been used military guns to shoot dead policemen. They have been robbing military weapons to attack government officers. They have been blackmailing the government by illegal means. They are supported by the US and the EU because they are the products of those countries. Crush them down by military force! Obama dare not take any military action against you because you have Russia, China... by your side.
In Response

by: Liberman from: USA
February 20, 2014 2:34 AM
Chinese Bloody-Commi, It is strange that you write this nonsense on the VOA site .
You got the wrong address. You need "Russia Today" for your stupid propaganda cliches.
You are a mistake of nature.
Comments page of 2

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs