Kerry Voices Support To Ukrainian Opposition

During a conference in Munich, Secretary of State John Kerry met with Ukrainian opposition leaders and pledged U.S. support for the protest movement.
Posted at 6:29 PM, Feb 01, 2014

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry voiced support for Ukraine's anti-government protest movement at a security conference in Munich Saturday.

"The vast majority of Ukrainians want to live freely, in a safe and prosperous country. And they are fighting for the right to associate with partners who will help them realize their aspirations." (Via U.S. Department of State)

Kerry also met with several protest leaders opposing Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on the sidelines of the conference. A State Department official says Kerry expressed his support for the opposition while encouraging them to keep the protests peaceful.

Ukraine's street protests started in November after Yanukovych snubbed a trade deal with the EU in favor of a Russian agreement. What began as a series of pro-EU rallies has gradually morphed into a direct challenge to Yanukovych's government.

The demonstrations have been growing increasingly violent since Ukraine's government passed a harsh anti-protest law last month. At least four people have been killed and dozens wounded in clashes between police and protesters. (Via BBC)

And on Friday, the hospitalization of anti-government activist Dmytro Bolatov, who claims he was kidnapped and tortured for eight days by pro-government thugs, sparked international outrage and the censure of several human rights group. (Via CNN)

Ukraine's government recently scaled back the protest law and offered several other gestures of appeasement to protesters. But opposition leaders in Munich say they want the U.S. and EU to put more pressure on Yanukovych.

One party leader even suggested the West should apply economic sanctions to Ukraine. "Sanctions is a perfect tool to convince the government to stick to the standards of democracy." (Via Euronews)

But Ukraine's government still has the support of Russia on its side. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov criticized Western leaders in Munich for supporting the protesters.

"Why don't we hear condemnation of those who seize and hold government buildings, attack the police, torture the police. ... Why are many prominent European politicians encouraging such actions?" (Via RT)

President Yanukovych is currently on indefinite sick leave, citing respiratory problems. The opposition is calling for his immediate resignation.