European Union foreign ministers have agreed to move ahead with imposing sanctions including visa bans and asset freezes on those responsible for the violence in Ukraine, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino said on Thursday.
“The decision is to proceed very rapidly, in the next hours, to a visa ban and asset freeze on those who have committed the violence,” she told reporters.
Hours earlier, russian President Vladimir Putin said that he’ll send an envoy to Ukraine, tomorrow, at the request of President Viktor Yanukovych, to try to mediate talks between the government and opposition.
“Putin decided to send (Russian) human rights ombudsman Vladimir Lukin on this mission,” state-run RIA quoted the spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as saying after a telephone
conversation between Putin and Yanukovych.
At least 60 people were killed and hundreds injured in fresh fighting in Kyiv on Thursday, shattering an overnight truce declared by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, and a presidential statement said dozens of police were also dead or wounded.
Activists hurling petrol bombs and paving stones drove riot police off a corner of the central Independence Square, known as the Maidan, and appeared to capture several uniformed officers. Police responded with stun grenades.
The clashes erupted shortly before three visiting European foreign ministers (french, germand and polish) were due to meet the Russian-backed Yanukovych to push for a compromise with his pro-European opponents. After a 5 hour meeting with Yanukovych, the three ministers are meeting the 3 opposition leaders in Kyiv.
The United States said on Wednesday that it had imposed U.S.visa bans on 20 Ukrainian government officials it considered “responsible for ordering human rights abuses related to political oppression”. European Union ambassadors discussed a series of possible steps including asset freezes and travel bans.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov likened threats of sanctions to blackmail, state-run news agency RIA reported. “The EU is also trying to consider the introduction of
sanctions and at the same time they come to Kiev on uninvited missions,” Lavrov was quoted as saying during a visit to Baghdad. “Such actions are reminiscent of blackmail.”
A draft text of EU ministerial statement on Ukraine says EU backs sanctions on those responsible for Ukraine violence as well as arms embargo, according to Reuters agency.