The escalating violence in Ukraine in the past several days has sparked outrage and intense scrutiny from international organizations and concerned countries alike. President Obama addressed the press, and the White House issued a statement. The European Union is reportedly conducting emergency meanings. As the situation develops, Ukraine will find itself under intense pressure.
Ukrainian authorities say at least 67 people have been killed this week, including 28 people on Wednesday, marking the bloodiest few days of Ukraine’s 22-year post-Soviet history.
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According to ABC News, protesters in Ukraine have been occupying central Kiev for almost three months since Mr. Yanukovych spurned a far-reaching trade deal with the EU and accepted a $15 billion Russian bailout instead.
Television footage of the clashes showed activists in combat fatigues leading several captured, uniformed policemen across the square.
Dozens of wounded protesters were given makeshift first aid treatment in the lobby of the Ukraine Hotel, where many foreign correspondents are staying.
European Union imposes targeted sanctions on Ukraine
According to Reuters, the trio of EU foreign ministers met for a marathon four hours with Yanukovich and extended their stay until Friday to put a roadmap for a political solution to opposition leaders after colleagues in Brussels imposed some targeted sanctions.
Vitaly Klitschko, an opposition leader, said he hoped for a deal overnight but added there was no clear result so far.
The document “offers a chance to bring an end to violence,” Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk said in Warsaw, adding that Yanukovich was willing to hold rapid elections to parliament and the presidency – the latter something Yanukovich has so far appeared reluctant to consider, a year before his term ends.
“We face a night of difficult negotiations,” Polish Foreign Ministry spokesman Marcin Wojciechowski tweeted from Kiev as demonstrators on Independence Square held a vigil after dark for fallen comrades, lit by mobile phone screens held aloft.
Medics carried bodies on stretchers through lines of protesters who chanted “Heroes, heroes” to the dead.
At an emergency EU meeting in Brussels, foreign ministers agreed to impose visa bans and asset freezes on those responsible for the violence and to halt exports of riot gear.
President Obama warns Ukraine’s military
Steven Lee Myers of The New York Times is reporting that President Obama, on a visit to Mexico, interrupted his opening meeting with President Enrique Peña Nieto to tell reporters that “the United States condemns in the strongest terms” the violence that has claimed lives in the last two days. He pointedly warned the Ukrainian military on Wednesday to stay out of the political crisis that has already ravaged the streets of Kiev and said the United States would hold the government responsible for further violence.
The president’s decision to address the Ukrainian situation without being asked reflected the growing concern by the White House that the standoff between the government and demonstrators in the street had spiraled out of control.
“We have been watching very carefully, and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters,” Mr. Obama said. “There will be consequences if people step over the line.”
The substance of that threat became clear on Wednesday evening, when the Obama administration said it had imposed a visa ban on 20 senior Ukrainian officials whom it accused of playing a role in the government’s crackdown on Tuesday. The State Department declined to say which officials were on the list, but a senior State Department official said it included “the full chain of command responsible for ordering the violence last night.”
White House releases a statement on Ukraine’s bloodiest day
An update from The Telegraph revealed that the White House has issued a statement in response to the bloodiest day in Ukraine since independence. Here it is in full:
“We are outraged by the images of Ukrainian security forces firing automatic weapons on their own people. We urge President Yanukovych to immediately withdraw his security forces from downtown Kyiv and to respect the right of peaceful protest, and we urge protesters to express themselves peacefully. We urge the Ukrainian military not to get involved in a conflict that can and should be resolved by political means. The use of force will not resolve the crisis — clear steps must be taken to stop the violence and initiate meaningful dialogue that reduces tension and addresses the grievances of the Ukrainian people. The United States will work with our European allies to hold those responsible for violence accountable and to help the Ukrainian people get a unified and independent Ukraine back on the path to a better future.”