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WASHINGTON — The United States raised the prospect today of joining partners in Europe to impose sanctions against Ukraine in an attempt to end the deadly violence that has raised fears of a civil war in the country.
The European Union called an extraordinary meeting of its 28 member countries on Thursday to address the situation.
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told reporters in Paris that he and his counterparts from Germany and Poland would travel to Ukraine, meeting with the Ukrainian government and opposition before the emergency EU meeting. EU sanctions would typically include banning leading officials from traveling to the EU countries and freezing their assets there.
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Secretary of State John Kerry, in Paris for meetings with Fabius and others, said he was disturbed by the level of abuse demonstrated by the Ukrainian government and protesters.
“We are talking about the possibility of sanctions or other steps in order to create the atmosphere for compromise,” he said.
Kerry said the situation is bad but there’s room for dialogue and that it’s up to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to decide the future of his country.
“Our desire is for President Yanukovych to bring people together, dialogue with the opposition and find (a way) to compromise and put the broad interests of the people of Ukraine out front,” he said. “We are convinced there is still space for that to happen. The violence can be avoided and, in the end, the aspirations of the people of Ukraine can be met through that kind of dialogue. That is our hope,” he added.
President Barack Obama, meanwhile, was en route to a summit with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. He likely will comment publicly on the situation after he arrives in Mexico later today, Ben Rhodes, a deputy U.S. national security adviser, told reporters on Air Force One.
Rhodes said U.S. officials are consulting with the EU on who should be held responsible for the violence in Ukraine and whether to impose sanctions.
“We continue to watch events very closely ... and we’ve made clear that we will consider taking actions against individuals who are responsible for acts of violence within Ukraine,” Rhodes said. “We have a tool kit for doing that that includes sanctions.”
Deadly clashes between police and anti-government protesters in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev on Tuesday left at least 25 people dead and hundreds injured, and raised fears of a civil war.
Rhodes said what happened Tuesday was “completely outrageous” and will be a factor in U.S. decision-making.
He said there was still time for the Ukrainian government to avoid sanctions or other punishment by pulling back its “riot police,” respecting people’s right to protest peacefully, releasing protesters who have been arrested and pursuing a “serious dialogue” with the opposition about how to unify the country.