U.S. urges Ukraine to call truce with opposition -White House

by Reuters
Wednesday, 19 February 2014 16:04 GMT

(Adds comments from White House) (Adds additional quotes, background)

By Mark Felsenthal

ABOARD AIR FORCE ONE, Feb 19 (Reuters) - The United States on Wednesday urged the Ukrainian government to pull back riot police from Independence Square in Kiev, call a truce and hold discussions with the opposition after least 26 people died in the worst violence since the former Soviet republic gained independence.

White House Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said the United States would consider the use of sanctions against those responsible for the violence in Ukraine.

Echoing comments from Secretary of State John Kerry, Rhodes said the United States is in consultation with the European Union about possible sanctions.

"We continue to watch events very closely, including who we believe is responsible for violence, and we've made clear that we would consider taking action against individuals who are responsible for acts of violence in Ukraine," including with sanctions, Rhodes told reporters on Air Force One.

He said the United States will be talking to European nations about the situation in Ukraine ahead of a EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Thursday.

U.S. officials have previously said they were reluctant to impose sanctions, preferring to seek a diplomatic solution to the political crisis that erupted last year when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich spurned a broad trade deal with the EU and accepted a $15 billion Russian bailout.

At least 26 people, including 10 policemen, were killed in Kiev after riot police entered Independence Square on Tuesday and battled government protesters who have occupied the square since November.

"I think the scenes that we saw in Kiev yesterday were completely outrageous and have no place in the 21st century," Rhodes said.

"We consistently oppose any use of violence by all sides, but the responsibility is on the government to pull back its riot police, to call a truce and to engage in a meaningful discussion with the opposition about the way forward," he said.

Rhodes said the United States would like to see Russia support efforts to reduce tensions in Ukraine.

"I think the message we've delivered to the Russians is that again we are not in some competition for the future of Ukraine. Frankly our interest is that the people of Ukraine are able to determine their future, not any external actor," he said.

Rhodes, who is traveling with President Barack Obama to a meeting in Mexico with Canadian and Mexican leaders, said Obama is following the events in Ukraine closely and has discussed them with French President Francois Hollande. (Additional reporting by Eric Beech; Editing by Alistair Bell and Douglas Royalty)

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