BRUSSELS — The deadly clashes in Ukraine’s capital have drawn sharp reactions from Washington, sparked a rapidly growing push for European Union sanctions and led to a Kremlin statement blaming Europe and the West. A roundup of some of the international reactions:
EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso on Wednesday expressed “shock and utter dismay” at the violence in Kiev, blamed Ukraine’s “political leadership” and predicted 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, as proposed by the high representative/vice president (top EU diplomat Catherine Ashton),” Barroso said in a statement. EU foreign ministers were summoned to an emergency meeting in Brussels on Thursday afternoon to decide on the bloc’s course of action on Ukraine.
Vice President Joe Biden called Ukraine’s president, Viktor Yanukovych, to express “grave concern” and to request the pullback of government forces and the exercise of maximum restraint. The White House said Biden made clear that while the United States condemns violence by all parties, the government bears “special responsibility to de-escalate the situation.” Biden also called on Ukraine’s government to address the protesters” “legitimate grievances” and put forward proposals for political reform.
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 had 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.
Germany’s leaders had refused to back Washington’s calls for sanctions against Ukraine’s government to pressure it into accepting opposition demands for reforms. But after violence in Kiev exploded on Tuesday, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said “Europe’s previous reluctance for personal sanctions must be rethought.”
On Wednesday, Steinmeier said that “a pause for breath is urgently needed” and called on all concerned not to use force — “that goes for the security forces but also for the radical elements among the demonstrators.”
“It is the responsibility of President Yanukovych, the government and the security forces to act level-headedly and de-escalate the situation,” Steinmeier said.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said Steinmeier is “examining all options — the question of personal sanctions is on the table.” That could involve identifying those responsible for the escalation of violence and imposing sanctions such as EU entry bans and freezing assets, he said — the EU foreign ministers’ meeting on Thursday is “a good opportunity to weigh up the pros and cons in view of the events and then make a common European Union decision.”
President Francois Hollande expressed “deep indignation” at the violence in Ukraine during a meeting of the French Cabinet on Wednesday, government spokeswoman Najat Vallaud-Belkacem said. “Everything must be done to stop the violence (in Ukraine). Some individual sanctions must be considered by the EU”, Hollande was also quoted as saying.
Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said,” We are going to take a joint position” with the Germans. He spoke before the beginning of a French-German meeting on Wednesday in Paris.
“There may be a whole scale of sanctions, including personal sanctions” against the persons who are causing the violence,” said Fabius. “The situation must become calm again as soon as possible”.
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said in a Twitter post on Wednesday: “We must be clear: Ultimate responsibility for deaths and violence is with President Yanukovych. He has blood on his hands.”
Pope Francis issued a special appeal for peace in Ukraine at the end of his general audience on Wednesday, speaking to tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square. “With a troubled soul I am following what is happening these days in Kiev,” he said. “I assure my closeness to the Ukrainian people and pray for the victims of the violence, for their relatives and for the injured. I invite all sides to stop any violent action and to look for harmony and peace in the country.”
Prime Minister Donald Tusk told his country’s parliament Wednesday that the time has come to impose sanctions on Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian government must take responsibility to immediately enter a serious dialogue with the opposition on the need for constitutional amendments, a new broad-based government and the preparation of democratic and fair presidential elections,” Foreign Minister Martin Lidegaard said.
The U.N. high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, called Wednesday for “an urgent and independent investigation to establish facts and responsibilities, including the possible use of excessive force, and to ensure accountability for these deadly clashes.”