EU and US co-ordinating Ukraine sanctions list
US and EU officials are working together to decide which Ukrainian officials to blacklist when EU foreign ministers meet on Thursday (20 December).
Ben Rhodes, a US national security advisor, told press on Wednesday: “We are in consultation with the European Union on the questions like which individuals should be held responsible for the violence, and in consideration of issues like imposing sanctions related to the ongoing violence.”
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He spoke after the US added 20 Ukrainian regime members to a visa ban list which it launched in January.
It did not publish the names, but another US official said it covers “the full chain of command responsible for ordering the violence” which saw 28 people killed this week.
The US treasury department has also done research into the international assets of Ukraine’s nomenklatura, most of which are held in Europe.
The EU-US co-ordination comes ahead of a snap EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels which is expected to agree sanctions that will enter into life on Friday morning.
Three EU ministers - from France, Germany, and Poland - will brief their colleagues after visiting Kiev earlier in the day.
Poland’s Radek Sikorski told the New York Times while en route to Ukraine that Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is unlikely to be listed in order to keep channels of communication open: “After all, he’s still the democratically elected President, large numbers voted for him and he still controls the situation, though he’s made a complete mess of it.”
Germany’s Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted: “We want to talk in Kiev with President Yanukovych and the representatives of the opposition to insist now on both sides to take a breather and to stop the violence.”
Yanukovych on Wednesday held talks with opposition MPs and said they agreed a “truce."
But the same day, his intelligence service, the SBU, announced the launch of a “counter-terrorist operation,” giving it carte blanche to detain people without charges or court orders. He also replaced his military chief, Volodymyr Zamana, who had criticised plans to impose a state of emergency, with a more loyal commander.
Meanwhile, fighting broke out again on Thursday morning.
The Kyivpost newspaper reported that seven people were killed and that "gunshots are incessant and heard everywhere on Kiev's Independence Square as hundreds of protesters systematically march on police" in what it dubbed “the shortest truce in history.”
For his part, Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk told Polish TV he has instructed hospitals to prepare for Ukrainian refugees.
He said Hungary and Slovakia are making similar preparations, adding: “What is happening today is not war, but the situation could spiral out of control at any moment … We are ready even for the worst case scenarios.”
US President Barack Obama also warned that outside pressure will increase if Yanukovych sends in the army.
“There will be consequences if people step over the line. 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,” he told media while on a visit to Mexico.
He criticised Russian leader Vladimir Putin for trying to stop Ukraine from having closer EU ties.
“Mr Putin has a different view on many of those issues [people’s basic freedoms] and I don’t think that there’s any secret on that,” Obama said. “Our approach in the United States is not to see this as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia. Our goal is to make sure that the people of Ukraine are able to make decisions for themselves about their future.”
His remarks allude to Zbigniew Brzezinski, a former US security advisor, who wrote a book on geopolitics called The Grand Chessboard.
Brzezinski said Russia needs Ukraine in order to revive its Soviet-era role on the world stage: “Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.”