The European Union agreed Thursday to impose sanctions against Ukraine, citing “grave human rights violations” and “radical action, including violence” there.
The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council met in a hastily organized session to discuss the ongoing deterioration in Ukraine, now into its third month of harsh police crackdown against massive public dissent. It released a series of conclusions Thursday afternoon, in which it blasted the government for the ongoing violence and urged both sides to give way to “the legitimate democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people.”
It will impose targeted sanctions against those it considers responsible for the human rights violations in Ukraine and the use of excessive force. These will include freezing their European bank accounts and restricting their ability to travel legally. It will also freeze any export licenses for equipment that could be used “for internal repression.”
It still has to determine the specific size and scale of these sanctions.
“The European Union is appalled and deeply dismayed by the deteriorating situation in Ukraine,” the 28-member council stated in their conclusions. “No circumstances can justify the repression we are currently witnessing.”
“We call for an immediate end to the violence, full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right of access to medical assistance, and for urgent independent investigations into Human Rights violations,” they said.
Hopes for peace were dashed early Thursday when violence broke out despite assurances from Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych that he had brokered a ceasefire. That announcement came hours after reports that he had fired the Ukrainian military’s top officer -- which some experts believe was a move to consolidate power -- and rumors that domestic police forces were planning widespread operations to target the protesters, known as “EuroMaidans.”
EU delegates from Germany, France and Poland were scheduled to meet with Yanukovych early Thursday. That meeting was delayed as violent protests continued outside the government headquarters in downtown Kiev. An EU spokesman says the meeting eventually took place.
At least 67 people have been killed in Ukraine since Tuesday, when the most violent crackdowns began, according to Reuters, including at least nine police officers. Fierce fighting continues in the central Independence Square, where the protest first began.
The EU published the council's full conclusions online.