Freedom House: President should resign, sanctions warranted if more violence against protesters


After the attack by Berkut riot police on a peaceful protest in the morning of 30 Nov

Further use of force by Ukrainian authorities should lead to the immediate imposition of targeted sanctions by the United States and European Union against Ukrainian officials responsible for such actions, Freedom House said today. Freedom House also calls on President Viktor Yanukovych to offer his resignation as a way to trigger early presidential elections, the only non-violent way to end the standoff with demonstrators. The international community must stand with the democratic aspirations of those brave Ukrainian people who have taken to the streets.

“President Yanukovych has lost support and legitimacy among the Ukrainian people, ” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House.  "We don’t support rule by mob, but Yanukovych created a crisis by rejecting the path toward integration with the EU and ignoring protesters’ demands that the government work on behalf of the people.”

On December 9, Ukrainian authorities began dismantling the barricades and tent camps of peaceful protesters in Independence Square and also entered the offices of at least one opposition newspaper as well as web-based television and news sites. Police acted a day after hundreds of thousands of protesters took to the streets in the largest demonstrations since protests began last month over the government’s decision not to pursue closer ties with the European Union.

“The best thing Yanukovych could do, given his decision to break up the protests, would be to announce his resignation to pave the way for early presidential elections, ” Kramer said. “The U.S. and EU should pressure the government to heed protesters’ legitimate demands and, if necessary, institute sanctions against those responsible for any further violent crackdown.”

Kyiv has been packed with pro-European and pro-democratic protesters, who occupied several government buildings to press their demands that Yanukovych resign and that Ukraine move forward with plans to integrate with the EU. Protests have also spread across the country. A vote of no confidence in the government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov fell short on December 3 but showed support for the government to be slipping.

 “The government’s about-face on European association, its disregard for the protesters’ demands, and readiness to use violence against them have sapped the public’s trust in the authorities, ” Kramer said. “Ukraine’s crisis can be resolved only by compromise among civil and political forces and a return to European integration.”

Ukraine is rated Partly Free{C}{C}{C} in Freedom of the World 2013, Partly Free{C}{C}{C} in Freedom of the Press 2013, and Free{C}{C} in Freedom on the Net 2013.

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