President Barack Obama issued a stern warning to the Ukrainian government today, urging officials not to use violence against the peaceful protestors who have been entrenched in the center of Kiev for three months.
Riot police advanced on the protestors Tuesday, trying to force them out of Independence Square. At least 25 people have died so far, with hundreds more injured. Obama warned against further violence but wasn’t specific about what the United States might do in response.
“There will be consequences if people step over the line,” the president said shortly after landing in Mexico for a summit with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. “And that includes making sure that the Ukrainian military does not step into what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians.”
The European Union (EU) will hold an all-hands-on-deck emergency meeting of its 28 member countries on Thursday to discuss the escalating violence. Ahead of the meeting, foreign ministers from France, Germany, and Poland will travel to Ukraine to meet with government officials and opposition leaders. The EU is considering imposing sanctions on Ukraine, which could include a ban on leading government officials traveling to EU countries and freezing their assets.
Although he urged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to show restraint, Obama also urged protestors not to perpetuate the violence.
“We hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protesters in the appropriate way, that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of repression,” he said.
Speaking from Paris, where he is meeting with his French counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said Yanukovych needed to find a way to compromise with the protestors calling for a new government. “The violence can be avoided and, in the end, the aspirations of the people of Ukraine can be met through that kind of dialogue,” Kerry said. “That is our hope.”