WASHINGTON (CBS DC/AP) — President Barack Obama warns there will be consequences in Ukraine if “people step over the line.”
After arriving in Mexico Wednesday for an economic summit, Obama made a brief statement about the violence in the Ukraine that has killed 25 and injured another 425, according to totals from The Associated Press.
“The United States condemns in the strongest terms the violence that’s taking place. And we have been deeply engaged with our European partners as well as the Ukrainian government and the opposition to try to ensure that that violence ends,” Obama said. “But we hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure that it is dealing with peaceful protesters in an appropriate way, that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of repression.”
Obama stated that he expects the Ukrainian government to show restraint against its own people.
“[W]e’re going to be watching closely and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence in dealing with peaceful protesters,” Obama said. “We’ve also said we expect peaceful protesters to remain peaceful and we’ll be monitoring very closely the situation, recognizing that with our European partners and the international community there will be consequences if people step over the line.”
Obama added that included the Ukrainian military not stepping into a set of issues that should be resolved by civilians.
Obama also said the U.S. will continue to engage with all sides.
“But regardless of how the Ukrainian people determine their own future, it is important the people themselves make those decisions and that’s what the United States will continue to strive to achieve.”
On Wednesday, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych sacked the army chief as violence flares in Kiev.
The violence this week was the worst in nearly three months of anti-government protests that have paralyzed Kiev. The two sides are locked in a battle over the identity of this nation of 46 million, whose loyalties are divided between Russia and the West. The protests began in late November after Yanukovych turned away from a long-anticipated deal with the European Union in exchange for a $15 billion bailout from Russia.
The political maneuvering has continued, with both Moscow and the West eager to gain influence over this former Soviet republic. Three EU foreign ministers – from Germany, France and Poland – were heading to Kiev on Thursday to speak with both sides before an emergency EU meeting back in Brussels to consider sanctions against those responsible for the recent violence in Ukraine.
(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)