US senator meets Ukrainian president, threatens sanctions

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US senator meets Ukrainian president, threatens sanctions

US senator meets Ukrainian president, threatens sanctions
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Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has met with US Senator John McCain.

The meeting took place after McCain addressed hundreds of thousands of protesters packed into Kyiv’s Independence Square on Sunday, supporting them and their European ambitions.

McCain threatened sanctions against Ukraine if authorities use more violence against protesters.

Yanukovych has faced mass protests since his U-turn away from Europe and a heavy police crackdown against demonstrators.

Ukraine is looking for help with its creaking economy: it needs to cover an external funding gap of 12 billion euros next year.

Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief, said a deal can still be worked out.

“We are very concerned when we look at some of the things that have been said, and my purpose in talking to President Yanukovytch was to discover what these short-term economic issues are that have prevented him from signing and I feel that we can work with him to resolve those,” said Ashton.

On the other side of the political tug-of-war is Russia. Extra money could be on the table at a meeting on Tuesday between Yanukovych and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

But Russia, which for centuries controlled or exerted heavy influence on Ukraine, wants the country to join a customs union analogous to the EU, which also includes Belarus and Kazakhstan.

Protesters are suspicious that Yanukovych might agree to joining at Tuesday’s meeting.