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Lajčák: Targeted action needed in Ukraine

THE EUROPEAN Union should take targeted measures against the individuals responsible for the violence in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák said after a cabinet session on February 19, one day ahead of the meeting of EU foreign ministers about the situation in Ukraine.

THE EUROPEAN Union should take targeted measures against the individuals responsible for the violence in Ukraine, Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák said after a cabinet session on February 19, one day ahead of the meeting of EU foreign ministers about the situation in Ukraine.

Protesters have been out in the streets of Kiev and other Ukrainian cities since November, when President Viktor Yanukovych refused to sign an association deal with the EU in a surprise move, choosing a closer alliance with Russia instead.

Violence escalated again on February 18 after several weeks of relatively peaceful protests. It is unclear what sparked the clashes outside the parliament, where the government blocked the opposition’s attempts to scale back the president’s constitutional powers, the BBC reported. Later that evening, police tried to clear Independence Square, the centre of the protests.

Protesters in Kiev attacked police with stones, petrol bombs and other improvised devices on February 18. The police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and stun and smoke grenades.

Ukrainian authorities reported 26 people dead (9 of them police officers, one local journalist and 14 protesters) and hundreds injured as of February 19, according to the Kiev Post.

In response, EU leaders are considering targeted sanctions. They could freeze the bank accounts of those who are suspected of earning their money illegally, or put the names of those responsible for killing protesters on the visa black list, according to Lajčák.

“Let’s ban them from the EU countries; I cannot imagine we could do anything less than this,” Lajčák said, as quoted by the SITA newswire, adding that the discussion of the EU foreign ministers in Brussels on February 20 is likely to take this direction too.

“We are not talking about sanctions but rather about punishing the people who bear responsibility,” SITA quoted Lajčák as saying.

Lajčák blamed Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych for his reluctance to engage in a real discussion with part of his nation.

“It is unacceptable that a political disagreement gets solved in a way that leaves dozens of dead behind,” Lajčák said.

The government’s Security Council is expected to meet over the situation in Ukraine in the coming days, the TASR newswire reported.

Slovakia, as a neighbouring state of Ukraine, has an interest in making sure the country is not isolated. Ukraine should develop in a positive, democratic way, with the spirit of European democratic values, the Foreign Ministry wrote in its February 18 statement.

The ministry called on all involved parties to exercise restraint, adding that it expects the ruling power to respect citizens’ right to gather in public.

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