US, Europe condemn Ukraine violence, threaten sanctions, while Moscow blames West

The Associated Press

Anti-government protesters protect themselves with shields during clashes with riot police in Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest, Kiev, Ukraine, Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014. The deadly clashes in Ukraine’s capital have drawn sharp reactions from Washington, generated talk of possible European Union sanctions and led to a Kremlin statement blaming Europe and the West. (AP Photo/Sergei Chuzavkov)

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By The Associated Press

BRUSSELS (AP) — Following the deadly clashes in Ukraine's capital, the Obama administration and European governments are talking about imposing punitive sanctions, the Kremlin has blamed the West for stirring up trouble and the pope has issued a special appeal for peace. A roundup of Wednesday's international reactions:

EUROPEAN UNION

EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed "shock and utter dismay" at the violence that erupted Tuesday in Kiev, blaming Ukraine's political leadership and predicting the 28-nation EU will impose sanctions as a result.

"We therefore expect that targeted measures against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force can be agreed by our member states as a matter of urgency," Barroso said in a statement.

EU foreign ministers were summoned to an emergency meeting in Brussels on Thursday to decide on the bloc's course of action. Barroso's office said he also phoned Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to warn that the EU will "react firmly to the deterioration of the situation."

RUSSIA

The Russian Foreign Ministry blamed the West for the escalation of violence and called on the Ukrainian opposition to work with the government to find an exit from the crisis. It said the West has fueled the violence by failing to clearly condemn the radicals who attacked police.

"What's going on is the direct result of the policy of connivance on behalf of Western politicians and European structures, which from the very start of the crisis have turned a blind eye to the aggressive actions of radical forces in Ukraine, encouraging them to engage in escalation and provocations against the legitimate government," it said.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said Russia views the developments in Ukraine as a "coup attempt." He denied Putin was giving Yanukovych any advice on how to handle the crisis, and said it is up to the Ukrainian government to determine the course of action to defuse the crisis.

UNITED STATES

President Barack Obama urged Ukraine to avoid violence against peaceful protesters or face consequences, as the United States considered joining European partners to impose sanctions aimed at ending the deadly street clashes.

"There will be consequences if people step over the line," Obama said Wednesday 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."

Secretary of State John Kerry, in Paris for meetings with the French foreign minister and other officials, said he was disturbed by the level of abuse demonstrated by the Ukrainian government and protesters.

"We are talking about the possibility of sanctions or other steps in order to create the atmosphere for compromise," Kerry said. He said the situation is bad but that there's room for dialogue and that it's up Yanukovych to decide the future of his country

GERMANY and FRANCE

At a joint news conference in Paris, French President Francois Hollande vowed that those who started the deadly violence in Ukraine "will be sanctioned," while German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the need for dialogue "because only political dialogue can really bring political progress"

Hollande said the sanctions to be considered by EU foreign ministers must be "targeted, specific and gradual to weigh on the process" of ending violence. They must be aimed at those who started the "intolerable acts," he said, adding that identifying those responsible takes time, raising the question of whether immediate EU measures are feasible.