WASHINGTON, D.C.– Before a week of the worst violence Ukraine has seen since its independence from Russia in 1991, on February 10, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution in an overwhelming majority to support the democratic and European aspirations of Ukrainian citizens and their right to choose their own future free of intimidation and fear.
On February 19, U.S. President Barack Obama publicly condemned the escalating violence in Ukraine and held the Ukrainian government primarily responsible. The U.S. and Europe are currently considering sanctions against the Ukrainian government to pressure for peace in the country.
The U.S. House of Representatives views a democratic, prosperous, and independent Ukraine is in the national interest of the U.S. Its resolution calls on the U.S. and the European Union to continue to work together to support a peaceful resolution to the crisis and to continue to support the desire of millions of Ukrainian citizens for democracy, human rights, government accountability, the rule of law and closer relations with Europe.
In November 2013, Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych pulled out of a trade pact agreement with the European Union because of pressure from Moscow. The E.U. deal would have included the release of Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Ukrainian prime minister who was imprisoned in 2011 based on a number of criminal cases. Tymoshenko is a supporter for Ukraine’s integration into the E.U. and strongly opposes the membership of Ukraine in the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. Tymoshenko also supports the eradication of the post-Soviet corrupt clans in Ukraine, which is a direct threat to Yanukovych’s pro-Russian support base.
Russia has backed Yanukovych and denounced the West for what it calls meddling in a country Russia sees as a natural ally. Ukraine, with its population of 45 million, is seen as one of Russia’s most important post-communist allies. Russia fosters a dependent relationship with Ukraine with subsidies and fuel supplies.
Yanukovych’s sudden reversal from the E.U. trade pact proved unpopular for the Ukrainian citizenry, who reacted first with peaceful protests staged in Kiev’s Independence Square until the police violently dispersed the peaceful demonstrators. Since late November 2013, more attacks and undemocratic measures followed against protesters, the opposition party and the press. It climaxed into the recent bloodshed of over 77 deaths, although the opposition claims over 100 died.
Moscow hinted it might delay release of a $2 billion loan desperately needed by the capital of Kiev unless Yanukovych regains control. The E.U. and the U.S. have already placed restrictions on Ukrainian officials deemed responsible for the violence. For example, the U.S. State Department banned 20 people in the Ukrainian government from obtaining U.S. visas. Even stricter sanctions may come, pending on the outcomes of the following days.
– Maria Caluag