President Barack Obama responded to the growing unrest in Ukraine by promising action against those involved in political violence, threatening “consequences if people step over the line.”
The president had just landed in Mexico for a diplomatic meeting when he spoke about the protests in Kiev, which exploded into violence in the last two days. As the pro-Russian government tightened its grip and pro-Europe protesters fought back, over two dozen across both sides lost their lives. And the unrest shows no signs of abating.
After condemning the violence, the president made no bones about where the United States’ sympathy lay. “We hold the Ukrainian government primarily responsible for making sure it is dealing with peaceful protesters in an appropriate way,” he said, “that the Ukrainian people are able to assemble and speak freely about their interests without fear of repression.”
“And I want to be very clear that as we work through these next several days in Ukraine, we are going to be watching very carefully and we expect the Ukrainian government to show restraint, to not resort to violence when dealing with peaceful protesters,” he continued. “We’ve said that we also expect peaceful protesters to remain peaceful.
“And we’ll be monitoring very carefully the situation,” he added, “recognizing that, along with our international partners and the international community, there will be consequences if people step over the line.”
Obama had been largely mum on the pro-Western Ukrainian protests as they have unfolded over the past few months.
The president was put in a tough spot by a previous red line last fall in Syria. The White House, which had suggested a military response to any use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, was forced to backtrack after public and congressional opinion turned strongly against a military strike.
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