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
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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.
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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
X
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 ...in 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.

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Comments page of 2
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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
RUSSIAN THUGS KEEP YOUR DIRTY MITS OFF UKRAINE!!!

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
Wrong

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.
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