• Kiev: Ukraine’s health and interior ministries say 25 people, including nine policemen, were killed (Photo: Christiaan Triebert)

Germany: EU to consider sanctions on Ukraine

19.02.14 @ 09:28

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - Germany has said Europe will consider imposing sanctions on Ukraine’s top cadre after 25 people were killed in a day and night of violence.

German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who had earlier opposed the move, said in a statement on Tuesday evening (18 February): “I stress: Those who are responsible in these hours for more bloodshed must know that the restraint Europe has shown regarding personal sanctions will surely be reconsidered.”

His Polish counterpart, Radek Sikorski, told Polish radio the EU will act “with a cool head” after analysing who did what. “The outside world always has very limited influence when the authorities of a country decide to use force. But this will definitely have consequences,” he noted.

Sweden’s Carl Bildt said the “EU will not hesitate on measures against interests of persons associated with repression and violence.”

The remarks point to a potential seizure of assets of people like Andriy Kluyev, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s chief-of-staff, former PM Mykola Azarov, and Yanukovych’s son, Oleksandr, who own companies and real estate in Austria, the Netherlands, and the UK.

If the EU goes ahead, it will mark an official breakdown in relations, putting Yanukovych in the same basket as Belarus dictator Aleksander Lukashenko.

But relations already broke down on Tuesday, when Yanukovych declined to answer phone calls from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

He met with an opposition MP, ex-boxer Vitali Klitschko, but said only that people should “lay down [their] arms.” He also published a statement damning the opposition and justifying use of force as his “duty as a guarantor of the constitution.”

According to Ukraine’s health and interior ministries, 25 people, including nine policemen, were killed in the fighting, which began on Tuesday morning when protesters marched toward parliament in Kiev.

Security forces, armed with AK47 assault rifles and accompanied by armoured vehicles, attacked the main protest camp, the Maidan, at around 8pm local time. Fighting continued into the small hours of Wednesday. It abated by 5am, with thousands of people still at the Maidan at 9am.

Unrest also flared in western cities, including Lviv, Odessa, and Ternopil.

The US state department said US citizens in central Kiev should “prepare to remain indoors, possibly for several days.”

A White House spokesman noted: “We are appalled by the violence.” US vice-president Joe Biden, who did get Yanukovych on the phone, said he “made clear that the United States condemns violence by any side, but the government bears special responsibility.”

The emotional language was echoed by Steinmeier and by EU neighbourhood commissioner Stefan Fuele.

The German minister said he is “shocked.”

Fuele, who phoned Ukrainian acting PM Serhiy Arbuzov, said: “To learn that there have been deaths and hundreds of injured people makes me shake.” He noted that Arbuzov “assured” him police will not use live fire against crowds. “I will pray he is right,” the commissioner added.

With Europe taken by surprise by the sudden escalation, which came after the regime and opposition MPs had appeared to reach a compromise, some politicians called for an emergency EU summit.

Elisabeth Guigou, the chair of the French parliament's foreign affairs committee, said the French President and the German Chancellor should announce one when they meet in Paris on Wednesday.

Joseph Daul, a French MEP who chairs the centre-right EPP group in the European Parliament, said the EU's top official, Herman Van Rompuy, should "arrange an extraordinary meeting at the highest level at the earliest possible time."