Freedom House Condemns Deadly Violence in Ukraine
Freedom House strongly condemns the escalating, deadly violence in Kyiv and the Ukrainian government’s warning that “all legal means” will be used to disperse protesters. Such developments are alarming signals that President Viktor Yanukovych has decided to escalate the three-month long crisis over demonstrators’ demands for closer ties to the West and greater democracy.
“Legitimate democratic leaders do not order riot police to attack protesters asking for a more open government,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “Yanukovych has forfeited his legitimacy and needs to step down. In the meantime, the United States and the European Union should immediately urge him to end the use of force. It is also vital for the United States and the EU to impose visa and financial sanctions, to speed meaningful political change. Such a step is long overdue.”
According to press accounts, at least nine protesters were killed in clashes with riot police February 18, and others were reported injured but unable to receive immediate medical care as the police were blocking emergency medical personnel.
The protracted standoff between pro-democracy protesters and the government has taken an especially high toll on journalists. At least 32 journalists were injured on February 18 and 19, bringing the number of reporters injured since the protests began in November 2013 to more than 150, and witnesses report the deliberate targeting of journalists.
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