European leaders slammed Ukraine’s leaders over violence at anti-government protests, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel phoning President Viktor Yanukovych to say she was “outraged.”
Ukrainian ambassadors were summoned to foreign ministries from Paris to Riga, with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout telling the Ukrainian government to avoid the use of force, release detained protesters and abolish new anti-demonstration laws.
The Cause of Unrest in Ukraine
“We are very concerned -- and not only concerned, but outraged -- at the way in which these laws were pushed through and that they call into question these fundamental freedoms,” Merkel said yesterday.
Yanukovych has faced mass protests since November when he rejected a cooperation deal with the European Union in favor of deepening ties with Russia. Police crackdowns are fanning people’s anger and the past four days and nights of clashes have left as many as five people dead and about 1,250 injured. A law to stem the protests took effect this week, giving the police special powers to quell the demonstrations.
Related: Ukraine Unrest Spreads From Kiev as EU Warns of Civil War
Merkel, who phoned Yanukovych yesterday, “urgently called on the president to engage in earnest dialogue with the opposition,” said Steffen Seibert, her chief spokesman. She said that EU sanctions targeting Ukraine are not the “solution of the moment.”
“Sanctions wouldn’t yield any positive result and would only push Yanukovych further into Russia’s arms and harm the already teetering economy,” Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Centre for International Political Economy in Brussels, said in a phone interview.
Erixon said EU leaders should focus on backing the opposition and making it far more clear to ordinary Ukrainians that their country will have a place in Europe once there is “regime change in the country.”
EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule is visiting Kiev for two days starting today to discuss developments.
Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Katarzyna Pelczynska-Nalecz, is also going to Ukraine today to talk with representatives of government and opposition, according to Marcin Wojciechowski, the Foreign Ministry’s spokesman in a Twitter note.
Poland’s parliament called in resolution for Ukraine to cancel its anti-protest laws and for possible sanctions aimed at people responsible for the bloodshed. In an amendment to Poland’s 2014 budget, the Senate proposed to use 3 million zloty ($977,000) to finance cooperation of young people from Poland and Ukraine.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius summoned the Ukrainian ambassador in Paris and said he’s “concerned and indignant” about the situation in Ukraine.
“The Ukrainian prime minister has not shown himself in a good light these past few days,” Fabius said in Davos, where he was attended the World Economic Forum annual meeting.
Lithuania also summoned Ukraine’s ambassador yesterday and President Dalia Grybauskaite, a former European commissioner, called him to her office today for talks.
Latvia summoned Ukraine’s ambassador on Jan. 22, it said in a press release yesterday.
“Regrettably such developments further escalate the situation in relation to the political crisis in Ukraine, already acute as it is,” said Andrejs Pildegovics, Latvian foreign affairs state secretary, according to an emailed statement.
The Czech Republic’s Kohout said he is “shocked about the magnitude of violence in the streets of Kiev” and called on Ukraine’s opposition to help calm down the situation.
Erixon said there are limits to what EU nations can do to influence the situation in Ukraine.
“European leaders are strongly exaggerating the leverage they have on Ukraine and the Yanukovych regime,” he said. “Far too many people in Brussels admit that they never envisaged that Yanukovych would reject the EU deal and worse than the way they misplayed their hand is that there wasn’t a Plan B.”
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