Kerry Puts Ukraine 'on Notice' About Sending Riot Police After Protesters
Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington is "disgusted" by the Ukrainian government's latest crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators, making a bit of a foray into a crisis where the administration has made clear it doesn't want to rock the boat.
"The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv's Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity. This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy," Kerry said in a statement last night.
"Last week in Brussels and Moldova, I underscored publicly the importance of all sides avoiding violence and called on President Yanukovych to fulfill the aspirations of the Ukranian people. We put the government on notice about our concern," he added.
"As Vice President Biden made clear to President Yanukovych during their phone call yesterday, respect for democractic principles, including freedom of assembly, is fundamental to the United States' approach to Ukraine. This is a universal value not just an American one. For weeks, we have called on President Yanukovych and his government to listen to the voices of his people who want peace, justice and a European future. Instead, Ukraine's leaders appear tonight to have made a very different choice."
The White House said the Biden call "reaffirmed the strong support of the United States for Ukraine’s European aspirations and welcomed President Yanukovych’s commitment to maintaining this path."
"We call for utmost restraint. Human life must be protected. Ukrainian authorities bear full responsibility for the security of the Ukrainian people," Kerry said. "As church bells ring tonight amidst the smoke in the streets of Kyiv, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better."
State security services have already said they’ll charge protest leaders with trying to stage a coup. Protesters, however, maintain that they’re simply asserting their democratic rights and fury over Yanukovych’s government refusal to pull Kiev closer to the European Union.
Not only is the president blocking off routes to modernization and greater trade opportunities for Ukraine, but he did so under the threat of Moscow. President Vladimir Putin, eager to exert whatever control he can over the Soviet-era sphere, promised trade sanctions and a sharp hike in natural gas prices if Ukraine agreed to an EU deal, but excellent discounts on gas if Yanukovych took Mosow’s preferred route.
State Dept. spokeswoman Jen Psaki said this week that “this is not about the United States versus Russia.”