Administration Blacklists 20 Ukrainian Officials From Traveling to U.S.

U.S. is prepared to work with the European Union on other measures if conditions between the government and the protesters worsen.

Protesters rally in central Kiev on Wednesday, as Ukrainian security forces moved away from the city hall after a failed bid to retake the building.
National Journal
Jordain Carney
Feb. 19, 2014, 2:02 p.m.

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion is block­ing ap­prox­im­ately 20 Ukrain­i­an of­fi­cials, who it says are tied to the gov­ern­ment’s re­cent crack­down, from ob­tain­ing a visa to travel to the United States.

Un­der law, the ad­min­is­tra­tion can’t name who was banned, but a seni­or State De­part­ment of­fi­cial said Wed­nes­day that “the full chain of com­mand” is rep­res­en­ted.

The of­fi­cial ad­ded that only ci­vil­ians are in­cluded in the list, and that so far they aren’t aware of any mil­it­ary in­volve­ment in Tues­day’s vi­ol­ence. Clashes between the po­lice and demon­strat­ors killed at least 25 people.

Protests have been on­go­ing since late Novem­ber, when Pres­id­ent Vikt­or Ya­nukovych’s gov­ern­ment an­nounced that it would back away from a trade agree­ment that would have strengthened the coun­try’s ties with the European Uni­on.

And though the coun­try’s mil­it­ary hasn’t been in­volved yet, the of­fi­cial said they “are par­tic­u­larly con­cerned this even­ing by the chan­ging of the guard” at the mil­it­ary bar­racks, adding that mak­ing dir­ect con­tact with seni­or se­cur­ity-force lead­ers has been “dif­fi­cult” over the past day.

“We have been try­ing to rees­tab­lish these con­tacts “¦ and nobody’s pick­ing up the phone on the Ukraine side,” the seni­or State De­part­ment of­fi­cial said.

The de­cision comes as Ya­nukovych and op­pos­i­tion lead­ers an­nounced a truce Wed­nes­day and said they would start ne­go­ti­ations “aimed at ces­sa­tion of blood­shed and sta­bil­iz­a­tion of the situ­ation in the coun­try for the sake of civil peace,” ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from Ya­nukovych’s of­fice.

West­ern of­fi­cials have re­peatedly called for the two sides to re­con­cile, with Pres­id­ent Obama say­ing Wed­nes­day that the United States holds “the Ukrain­i­an gov­ern­ment primar­ily re­spons­ible for mak­ing sure that it is deal­ing with peace­ful pro­test­ers in an ap­pro­pri­ate way.”

If con­di­tions between the two sides im­prove, the State De­part­ment of­fi­cial said the visa sanc­tions are re­vers­ible, but warned that “in the event that they do not go well there are oth­er steps that we can take in close co­ordin­a­tion with the EU in com­ing days.”

The of­fi­cial didn’t spe­cify what form that co­ordin­a­tion could take, but noted that the United States has pre­vi­ously worked with the European Uni­on to move against in­di­vidu­als in a “broad­er way.”

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