POLITICS: PennAve

Obama to address Ukraine violence, sanctions on the table

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Politics,White House,Barack Obama,Russia,National Security,PennAve,Meghashyam Mali,Jay Carney,Foreign Policy,Ukraine

The White House said the President Obama would publicly address the escalating violence in Ukraine and that the administration was considering a “toolkit” of actions to rein in Kiev, including sanctions.

White House press secretary Jay Carney and deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes told reporters Wednesday aboard Air Force One that Obama was holding private talks with world leaders and would make a brief public comment about the crisis in Ukraine.

Rhodes said that the U.S. would coordinate with the European Union over what actions to take, but noted that sanctions were an option.

“We have made it clear we would consider taking action against individuals who are responsible for acts of violence within Ukraine,” Rhodes added. “We have a toolkit for doing that that includes sanctions.”

Obama is headed to Toluca, Mexico for the North American Leaders Summit.

A standoff between the government of President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition groups exploded into violence on Tuesday when security forces charged protesters who have camped out in Kiev’s Independence Square for the last two months.

Reports said that over two dozen were killed in the clashes. Protesters have criticized Yanukovych's government for blocking a trade deal with the EU in favor of closer ties with Russia.

The government has warned that they will crack down severely if the protesters do not disband. The EU and U.S. have urged Yanukovych to negotiate with opposition groups and seek a peaceful resolution to the standoff.

Vice President Joe Biden called Yanukovych on Tuesday and expressed “grave concern” over the violence.

“He called on President Yanukovych to pull back government forces and to exercise maximum restraint,” the White House said in a statement. “The vice president made clear that the United States condemns violence by any side, but that the government bears special responsibility to de-escalate the situation.”

On Wednesday, Rhodes said the administration hoped that possible sanctions could force the government back to the negotiating table.

“Events like what we saw yesterday are clearly going to impact our decision making,” said Rhodes.

He added that if the Kiev government took steps including releasing political prisoners and resuming meaningful talks with the opposition, “that would obviously factor into our calculus as well.”

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