MOSCOW, February 11 (RIA Novosti) – American lawmakers backed a resolution on Monday night threatening sanctions against officials in Ukraine if violence is used against pro-European protestors.
The US House of Representatives voted 381 to 2 to endorse the resolution in support of Ukraine's pro-European opposition movement.
It calls on the government in Ukraine to "release and drop criminal charges against [demonstrators] detained for exercising their democratic rights." The resolution also urges the Ukrainian authorities to prosecute those responsible for previous cases of violence against protesters.
The resolution warns that in case of “further violence by government authorities against peaceful protestors, the [US] may consider targeted sanctions against [officials] who authorize or engage in this use of force."
Forty-eight US lawmakers, a mixture of Democrats and Republicans, did not vote on the resolution, which expressed support for “the democratic and European aspirations of the people of Ukraine, and their right to choose their own future free of intimidation and fear.”
The resolution, which was first introduced in December amid swelling anti-government demonstrations in Kiev and other cities, called for all sides in Ukraine to work towards a peaceful solution to the political crisis that has engulfed the country for nearly three months.
National protests erupted after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an association agreement with the European Union at the last minute in November and instead signed an aid deal for Ukraine to receive $15 billion from Russia. Initially venting anger at the abandoned trade deal, the demonstrations quickly turned into a broad anti-government protest movement, resulting in a standoff between the government and political opposition that is still ongoing.
Police attempts to forcibly evict protesters from camps established in the center of the capital Kiev turned violent on at least one occasion, drawing international condemnation.
The US resolution encouraged Ukraine to resume pursuit of the association agreement with the EU. It said the US and the EU should work together to secure a peaceful outcome to the crisis in the former Soviet republic.
The European Parliament also adopted a resolution on Ukraine last week, condemning violence and urging European financial institutions to offer support to help relieve the crisis.
Russia suspended payment of its aid when Ukraine’s government resigned in late January, after days of violent clashes between police and protestors over new laws that severely curtailed public demonstrations. The laws were swiftly abolished, but the EU is still in talks over possible economic assistance to Ukraine.