The US Senate has called for possible sanctions against individuals responsible for state violence against Ukrainian demonstrators protesting Kiev’s decision to abandon long-awaited trade and political deals with the European Union.
“In the event of further state violence against peaceful protestors, the President and Congress should consider whether to apply targeted sanctions, including visa bans and asset freezes, against individuals responsible for ordering or carrying out the violence,” lawmakers said in a Senate resolution passed Tuesday.
Mass protests broke out across Ukraine after Kiev stunned Europe on November 21 by announcing that it would indefinitely postpone the signing of association and trade deals with the EU. The protests took a more radical turn after riot police violently cleared downtown Kiev’s Independence Square on November 30.
Instead of proceeding with the expected EU deals, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s government strengthened ties with Russia last month, striking a $15 billion bailout package with Russian President Vladimir Putin to stabilize Ukraine’s finances.
In the Senate resolution passed Tuesday, US lawmakers criticized the U-turn as counter to the will of the Ukrainian people, the result of “Russian economic coercion,” and intended “to protect the narrow interests of some officials and individuals.”
Yanukovych’s government appeared to take the resolution in stride, with the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry saying Wednesday that it considers the adoption of the initiative to be “a sign of support for the European choice of our country and its democratic development.”
“The Government of Ukraine remains committed to the strategic course towards European integration and continuation of democratic reforms,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry also welcomed US lawmakers’ call for all sides to refrain from violence, saying it is “fully consistent” with the Ukrainian government’s approach and noting that Yanukovych has “condemned the use of force on the part of law enforcement agencies and individual protesters.”
Russia has repeatedly criticized what it describes as outside interference in the tense standoff between Ukrainian authorities and protesters.
Officials in Europe and the United States, meanwhile, have accused Moscow of using economic levers to pressure Kiev into closer integration with its ex-Soviet neighbor – a charge Russian officials have denied.