February 19, 2014, 02:48 pm
Obama threatens 'consequences' for Ukraine violence
By Julian Pecquet
President Obama vowed Wednesday that there would be “consequences” for Ukraine's leaders if violence against protesters continues.
“We expect peaceful protestors to remain peaceful and we’ll be monitoring very closely the situation, recognizing that with our European partners and the international community there will be consequences if people step over the line,” Obama said after 25 people were reported dead in overnight protests. “And that includes making sure the Ukrainian military does not step into what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians.”
Obama made the remarks during a joint press conference in Mexico with President Enrique Peña Nieto, highlighting that the political crisis on Russia's doorstep has reached the highest levels of the White House. The administration has threatened to slap travel and financial sanctions on President Viktor Yanukovych's government if violence continues, but has left the door open to a political settlement before it comes to that.
Obama said the U.S. condemns “in the strongest terms” the ongoing violence. He said his administration has been “deeply engaged” with the Ukrainian government and opposition, as well as the European Union, which is expected to vote on sanctions at a foreign ministers' meeting on Thursday.
The move follows weeks of pressure on the EU from the Obama administration to take a stronger stance after Yanukovych's decision to forgo an association agreement with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia. That decision triggered ongoing protests in the capital, Kiev, and across the nation.
“The United States will continue to engage with all sides in the dispute in Ukraine,” Obama said. “Ultimately our interest is to make sure the Ukrainian people can express their own desires and we believe a large majority of Ukrainians are interested in an integration with Europe and the commerce and cultural exchanges that are possible for them to expand opportunity and prosperity.