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.”