By Dave Boyer
President Obama warned Ukraine Wednesday that “violence is not the path” for dealing with civil unrest and said his administration will hold Kiev responsible for the deaths of protesters.
“We’re going to be watching closely and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protestors,” Mr. Obama said in Toluca, Mexico, where he met with Mexican President Enrqiue Pena Nieto. “There will be consequences if people step over the line.”
The president’s comments came a day after violence erupted between riot police and protesters in Kiev, killing at least 25 people and injuring 241. It was the worst violence in nearly three months of anti-government protests in a long-simmering domestic dispute over whether Ukraine should engage more with the West or maintain its ties to Russia.
As he arrived for a summit in Mexico, Mr. Obama said the U.S. is working with European allies to stop the killings in Ukraine. Both protesters and security forces have been killed in the violence this week.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the violence that’s taking place,” Mr. Obama said. “We hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protesters in an appropriate way, that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of repression.”
White House officials have said the U.S. is considering sanctions against Kiev, although Mr. Obama did not refer to that option directly. The president said possible consequences include “making sure the Ukrainian military does not step into what should be a set of issues that can be resolved by civilians.”
“The United States will continue to engage with all sides in the dispute in Ukraine and 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,” he said. “But regardless of how the Ukrainian people determine their own future it is important the people themseves make those decisions and that’s what the United States will continue to strive to achieve.”
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