MOSCOW, December 12 (RIA Novosti) – The United States may consider imposing sanctions on Ukraine as part of a raft of measures to lead the country out of its deepening political crisis and promote reforms.
The US State Department’s signals about the possibility of punitive action against Ukraine’s government will pile pressure on President Viktor Yanukovych to consider a negotiated exit out of his standoff with opposition forces leading the massive demonstrations unfolding in the capital, Kiev.
The hint at sanctions follows a visit on Wednesday to the epicenter of the protests on Kiev’s Independence Square by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland, who met with demonstrators occupying the space. Nuland also met Yanukovych for talks in which she reportedly condemned the Ukrainian government’s heavy-handed use of force against protesters.
“Bringing, of course, justice and dignity to the people of Ukraine is what … our strong message was on the ground. All policy options, including sanctions, are on the table in our view,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
Protests in Ukraine have been ranging since the government last month pulled out of preparations to sign landmark political and trade deals with the EU, sparking widespread indignation.
While nationwide discontent was initially focused on the reversal of course over the EU – a move the authorities justified by stating it was necessary to boost economic ties with neighboring Russia – it has with time taken on a more generalized anti-government flavor.
Riot police and Interior Ministry forces clashed with opposition supporters in Kiev early Wednesday, while utilities services removed barricades that protesters put up in the streets to disrupt access to government buildings.
Police said later that they were only working to dismantle the barricades impeding traffic, not to disband the protest camp itself.
But the authorities’ attempts to clear Independence Square and the city hall building, which has also been taken over by demonstrators, were thwarted and barricades have been put back in place.