Ukraine violence prompts special meeting of EU foreign ministers | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 19.02.2014
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Ukraine violence prompts special meeting of EU foreign ministers

The foreign ministers of the 28 EU nations have been summoned for an emergency summit on Thursday to discuss the situation in Ukraine. Violence on Tuesday led to 25 deaths, and EU sanctions may be on the horizon.

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Kiev's bloodiest night yet

Until Wednesday, the European Union had resisted calls to implement sanctions against Ukrainian officials deemed to be responsible for instances of violence that have plagued the country during the protests of recent months.

But Tuesday's bloodbath, which left 16 demonstrators and nine police officers dead, appears to have changed the bloc's stance.

The EU's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said on Wednesday that "all possible options will be explored, including restrictive measures against those responsible for repression and human rights violations" at Thursday's meeting.

European condemnation

Ashton was not alone in condemning the violence and making a clear indication that sanctions were possible.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said that sanctions would show the EU was serious about the need for political dialogue following Tuesday's violence, which also injured over 200 people and saw protesters' barricades go up in huge flames.

"When [EU] foreign ministers meet tomorrow in Brussels they must talk about which specific sanctions should be imposed to show we are serious that the political process must resume," she told reporters in Paris.

Merkel is currently in the French capital for talks with French President Francois Hollande, who echoed the chancellor's calls for tough action against Ukraine.

"Those who committed these acts and are preparing to commit others must know they will be punished," he said during a joint press conference with Merkel.

He added that the "question of sanctions, their level and their target," would be raised at the meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

Russia blames activists

Tuesday's violence was the worst yet in months of protests that have seen protesters and police clash often. The protests began in November when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych backed out of a deal that would have strengthened ties with the European Union, opting instead for a deal that brought Ukraine closer to Russia.

A spokesman for the Kremlin issued a statement on Wednesday saying Russian President Vladimir Putin saw the "extremists" as the ones to blame for the violence for staging a "coup d'etat."

"The position of the Russian leadership and the Russian president on the Ukrainian events is to await a speedy resolution of this situation," Dmitry Peskov added in comments carried by the RIA Novosti news agency. "How this resolution takes place from the point of view of the Russian president is exclusively the prerogative of the legitimate authorities."

The Russian foreign ministry on Wednesday called for the Ukrainian opposition to end the violence.

Yanukovych defiant

Former boxer and Ukraine opposition leader Vitali Klitschko left talks with Yanukovych on Tuesday night after Yanukovych made an unconditional demand that the central square in Kyiv be cleared. Independence Square - also known as Maidan - remained full of protesters on Wednesday.

Yanukovych sent a message to opposition leaders to distance themselves from "radical forces who provoke bloodshed" on Wednesday while defending the crackdown by police from Tuesday.

He said opposition leaders "crossed a line when they called people to arms," but that there was still the possibility of holding talks if the opposition draws "a boundary between themselves and radical forces."

Ukraine's National Security Service and the Ukrainian Anti-Terrorist Center on Wednesday announced the launch of a nationwide "anti-terrorist" operation in response to the latest violence.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay called for an independent investigation "to establish facts and responsibilities, including the possible use of excessive force, and to ensure accountability for these deadly clashes" in Ukraine.

mz,dr/lw (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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