US revokes visas of Ukrainian officials; more sanctions expected from West

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The United States has started started limited, targeted sanctions against the Ukrainian authorities as it announced today that it had revoked the visas of top Ukrainian officials implicated in ordering police violence against protesters in November and December. The announcement came after the gunshot deaths this morning of two protesters after a police assault on the demonstrators’ barricades.  A third protester died of other injuries. 

Because of U.S. confidentiality laws, the names of the officials who had the visas revoked were not released publicly. The fact that the sanctions were introduced before today’s three deaths suggest that further sanctions will be forthcoming from the West, including the United States and possibly the European Union.

The EU delegation is currently preparing a statement on the morning’s events.

Meanwhile, Western diplomats expressed their indignation at being called to a meeting of top Ukrainian officials this morning as the police assault was taking place.

Officials present said that the Ukrainian officials, including Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara and Justice Minister Olena Lukash, tried to persuade them that draconian anti-free speech and anti-demonstration laws that went into effect today are in line with democratic standards.

One of the diplomats said that they presented an hour-long lecture with illustrations from European law where similar legislation exists, according to Ukraine’s officials. Diplomats were not given any opportunity to respond.

“We sat there for more than 1 hour, and then Kozhara said they had to close the meeting, and go to a Cabinet meeting,” one diplomat says.

Several ambassadors stood up and attempted to respond and express their indignation, saying that having no chance to respond “was unacceptable.”

The diplomat said the Ukrainian interpretation of the laws was “completely non-credible.”

“It’s the comprehensive analysis (of this legislation) that makes us worried, and also the timing of the law that makes them oppressive,” the diplomat said.

The following is an official statement from the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine:

“In response to actions taken against protestors on the Maidan in November and December of last year, the U.S. Embassy has revoked the visas of several Ukrainians who were linked to the violence.  Because visa records are confidential under U.S. law, we cannot comment on individual cases.  We would like to underscore that the Department of State has broad authority to revoke visas based on information indicating that a visa holder may be inadmissible to the United States, and we are considering further action against those responsible for the current violence.”

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