Over the past few days, anti-government protests in Ukraine have hit a fever pitch. Now, the European Union is stepping in, and the U.S. looks like it won't be far behind.
"It's absolutely clear that this violence is completely unacceptable and should stop immediately. ... We decided as a matter of urgency, we needed to look at targeted sanctions."
What began as peaceful anti-government protests in November have escalated into a string of violent conflicts between police and demonstrators. We still don't know exact casualty numbers, but the BBC estimates almost 70 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in Kiev since the fighting began. (Via ITV)
Early Wednesday, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych announced his government had brokered a temporary truce with opposition leaders, briefly raising hopes that a diplomatic end to the standoff could be in sight.
Those hopes were dashed when police and protesters resumed fighting early Thursday, in what has become by far the bloodiest day in these protests. Both police and protesters have started using live rounds, and at least 21 people were killed after police snipers entered the fray. (Via Euronews, MSNBC)
The E.U. responded to Thursday's violence by leveling sanctions against Ukraine, freezing some of the country's trade assets and banning travel visas of "those responsible for human rights violations, violence and use of excessive force."
And while the U.S. has yet to act, similar sanctions are expected soon. On Wednesday, President Obama said, "Along with our European partners and the international community, there will be consequences if people step over the line." (Via The White House)
The sanctions attracted immediate criticism from Russia's foreign minister Sergey Lavrov who accused Europe of willfully overlooking violence committed by the demonstrators. (Via RT)
"Everyone in Europe and the U.S. put all the blame on the government of Ukraine, and they do not condemn as they should the actions of the extremists. We are very troubled by all that, because the double standards are obvious." (Via Channel 4)
And CNN's Fareed Zakaria points out if the U.S. sanctions Ukraine's already struggling economy, "the danger is it will only push the Ukrainians closer to Russia."
Poland's prime minister told The New York Times Thursday there were some signs that President Yanukovych would concede to protester's calls for an early election, but publicly both the government and the opposition have been skeptical of reaching a deal anytime soon.