US imposes Ukraine sanctions, EU voices 'worry'
The US has imposed sanctions on Ukrainian officials deemed guilty of ordering violence against pro-EU protesters.
Its embassy in Kiev said on Wednesday (22 January): “In response to actions taken against protestors on the Maidan in November and December of last year, the US embassy has revoked the visas of several Ukrainians who were linked to the violence.”
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It added: “We are considering further action against those responsible for the current violence.”
Its decision comes amid reports that three demonstrators were killed in fighting with police on Wednesday morning.
The American visa ban list is confidential under US law.
But EUobserver understands it includes Ukrainian interior minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko and up to 19 others.
It is likely to include Andriy Kluyev, President Viktor Yanukovych’s national security chief, said to have ordered riot police to beat up demonstrators last November.
EU foreign service chief Catherine Ashton also said in a statement on Wednesday: "I strongly condemn the violent escalation of events in Kiev overnight leading to casualties. The reported deaths of several protesters is a source of extreme worry.”
She added: “I am deeply concerned about attacks on journalists and about reports of missing persons.”
An EU source said the Union’s position - that it is still willing to sign an association pact with Yanukovych - remains unchanged, with its top negotiator, commissioner Stefan Fuele due in Kiev on Friday.
Meanwhile, Ashton-type comments by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite on twitter earlier on Wednesday met with derision.
“Then start the sanctions!! Stop just ‘being concerned’! There are people [sic] got killed!!’,” one respondent, who identified himself as Bogdan Dyakovych, said.
An EU diplomatic source told EUobserver the US state department is also putting pressure on the EU to take a firmer line.
“The Americans are calling us everyday to ask: ‘What is the EU planning to do?’,” the contact said.
A US source told this website the US ban is largely symbolic because Ukrainian officials and oligarchs like to visit and deposit their money in Europe rather than in the United States.
For his part, Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt earlier this week told press: “I think we should look towards various instruments targeted against corrupt money [in Ukraine].”
The Lithuanian foreign minister has also come out in support of punitive measures.
But Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier has indicated EU sanctions are unlikely for the time being.