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.

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Comments page of 2
February 19, 2014 11:34 PM
Moscow, February 18th, 2014.

Appeal to peoples and governments of the world

On the 18th of February, 2014, Viktor Yanukovich ordered the police to shoot at a peaceful popular demonstration, marching toward the Verkhovna Rada demanding the introduction a bill restoring the 2004 Constitution. At least eighteen people have already been killed as a result of unwarranted use of firearms by the special police force Berkut. Hundreds of people have been injured and the police are not granting them access to medical help. Over the past months many Maidan activists have been kidnapped and subsequently humiliated, tortured or murdered. Right now, special police forces and security services are storming the square that is the center of the Ukrainian citizens’ peaceful protest.

The Committee in Solidarity with Maidan appeals to the international community to:
- take all possible measures to immediately end the bloodshed in Kyiv;
- condemn the crimes against humanity committed by the Yanukovich regime;
- establish an international tribunal to investigate the offences of Yanukovich’s criminal regime against the Ukrainian people;
- freeze the accounts of Yanukovich and his accomplices in banks all over the world;
- initiate criminal cases against Yanukovich and his henchmen and include their names on Interpol lists.

The Commitee in Solidarity with Maidan calls for an investigation into the actions of Russian officials and servicemen, including Russia’s top officials, who have helped plan and commit crimes against the Ukrainian people and who have urged the Ukrainian authorities to violently suppress the democratic movement in Ukraine. The Commitee in Solidarity with Maidan calls for economic and political sanctions against these Russian officials and servicemen.

The killing of Ukrainian civilians needs to end immediately.
Criminals guilty of crimes against the Ukrainian people, whatever positions they may hold, must to be duly punished.

Members of the Commitee in Solidarity with Maidan:

Mikhail Anshakov
Dmitry Barma
Andrei Illarionov
Valeriy Otstavnykh
Andrei Piontkovsky
Vladimir Rizda
Pavel Shelkov
In Response

by: Misha from: CA, USA
February 20, 2014 2:31 PM
Police officers there are also Ukrainian people. Furthermore, they have been verified to be Ukrainian citizens. The masked people could be anyone, there's no way of verifying that they are Ukrainians. The police officers who were killed and/or injured by these masked people should also be protected by the justice department, therefore the protesters responsible should be arrested.

by: Matthew George from: Providence, Rhode Island
February 19, 2014 2:31 PM
Please stay out off it. Ukrainian should deal with their own problem.

by: Sofianitz from: Sofia, Bulgaria
February 19, 2014 1:48 PM
This is a classic US covert operation. We've already seen this movie. Dozens of times.
Comments page of 2

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