The White House said sanctions will be considered against Ukraine, though military action is not one of the options.
Military action by the U.S. is not among the options being considered, deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said. “The options available to the president are being considered with some urgency,” he told reporters, adding that sanctions were the only measure under active consideration.
The protests, which began in late November, grew violent on February 18th. The US State Department issued a Ukraine travel alert and visa bans on 20 Ukrainian officials. President Barack Obama, in Mexico on a diplomatic mission, Wednesday said there will be “consequences if people step over the line.” He did not elaborate on the consequences. Then, on Thursday, the White House told President Viktor Yanukovich to pull back security forces in Kiev.
The Associated Press reports that Ukraine had little response:
But Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had tried to reach the Ukrainian defense ministry to discuss the violence, but “they have been unresponsive to our requests.” Kirby said the lack of responsiveness was unprecedented.
Yanukovich announced a truce between his government and opposition leaders, but protesters did not believe him. Late Wednesday night they seized a central post office in Kiev, and Ukraine television saw protesters gathering up 67 policemen.
The European Union announced sanctions against Ukraine, which include visa bans and freezing assets. EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said they want the opposition and Yanukovich to talk, but it must start with him.
The White House deputy spokesman explained the U.S. position:
Earnest said the Ukrainian government has the primary responsibility for keeping the peace but that the Ukrainian people must also respect their right to peaceful protest. He said “having those rights trampled” is a source of some concern to the U.S., and again called on the government and the opposition to negotiate a political solution to restore order.
“Basic human rights that we hold so dear in this country are not being respected in that country,” Earnest said.