Escalating violence in Ukraine has caused both the United States and the European Union to impose sanctions on the country, an attempt to pressure Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich to stop crackdowns against protesters.
On Thursday, German, French and Polish foreign ministers traveled to Kiev, the Ukrainian capital, to negotiate with Yanukovich. They then returned to Brussels, where EU foreign ministers agreed to impose travel bans on Ukrainian government officials, as well as to implement asset freezes. Following the vote in favor of sanctions, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt tweeted that “as a matter of urgency” they were being imposed “on those responsible for violence and excessive force in Keiv.”
The United States already imposed a travel ban on 20 Ukrainian leaders thought to be responsible for the violence.
Despite the fact that Yanukovich and opposition leaders called a truce on Wednesday, the violence continued on Thursday. Around 50 people have been killed and more than 200 have been injured in what some have said looks dangerously like the beginning of a civil war. Unrest began last November, when Yanukovich rejected an association agreement with the EU that would have more deeply integrated the former Soviet republic with Western Europe.
The United States and European leaders are calling for a transitional government to replace Yanukovich, but Russia is publicly supporting the current president. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov criticized the United States and EU for taking action against Ukraine, as well as the visit from the three European foreign ministers:
How can you expect that your services will be in demand when the parallel threat of sanctions makes everything very similar to blackmail?
President Barack Obama Wednesday personally attacked Russian President Vladimir Putin, with whom he has a cool relationship, for his support of the Ukrainian government’s crackdown against protesters. “Our approach in the United States is not to see these as some cold war chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia,” said Obama. “Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future, that the people of Syria are able to make the decisions without having bombs going off.”
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