President Obama finally chimed in on the Ukraine crisis after landing in Mexico today for meetings with President Enrique Peña Nieto, drawing a weak sort of red line on the violence in the former Soviet state.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the violence that’s taking place. And we have been deeply engaged with our European partners as well as the Ukrainian government and the opposition to try to ensure that that violence ends,” Obama said. “But we hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protestors in an appropriate way, that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of repression.”
“And I want to be very clear as we work through these next several days in Ukraine that 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.”
At least 25 people have been killed in the past couple of days as Ukrainian police have dispatched snipers to target protesters and chucked Molotov cocktails at their fortifications. Protesters have tried to hold off police with a fire barrier in Kiev’s main square, which police have been trying to breach with water cannons.
Obama added that “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.”
“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,” he said. “So 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.”
“But regardless of how the Ukrainian people determine their own future it is important the people themselves make those decisions and that’s what the United States will continue to strive to achieve.”
Obama made no indication that he’s reached out to President Viktor Yanukovych. The two last met in March 2012 and the White House has been letting Vice President Joe Biden handle relations.