Three deaths in Kiev took place Wednesday as Ukraine saw continued protests and subsequent government backlash surrounding improper passage of Ukranian legislation last week that limited free speech, journalism, the right to protest, and the involvement of non-government organizations.
Jen Psaki, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, released a statement on behalf of the Department soon after the legislation passed. In it, she expressed concern regarding the improper procedure behind the measure’s passage, and concerns about the restrictive effect the legislation would have on the democratic rights of Ukrainian citizens. “Both the process and the substance of the Rada’s actions today cast serious doubt on Ukraine’s commitment to democratic norms. A true democracy cannot function without dialogue, compromise, the right to peaceful dissent, and a legislature that enjoys the people’s trust,” said Psaki in the statement.
Following the deaths, Prime Minister of Ukraine, Mykola Azaraov, spoke at a government meeting Wednesday, condemning protesters as terrorists of the far right, and stating that the victims who have died are “on the conscience and the responsibility of the organizers and participants of mass unrests.”
Interfax News reports that deaths occurred on Krushevsky Street and Hrushevskoho Street in Kiev, with a number of reports stating they were shot, but with police denying involvement. “Allegations made against law enforecment agencies are unjustified as those who are on Hrushevskoho Street do not have firearms,” insisted the Prime Minister in his speech. Interfax News also released reports that the Ukrainian government has removed previous restrictions on water cannon use in cold weather.
The U.S. Embassy released a statement as well, explaining that it would be dealing with the events of November and December — in which violent action was taken against protestors on the Maidan in Ukraine — by revoking visas of certain individuals who were involved in the violence.
The President of the European Commissions, Jose Manuel Barroso, released a statement from the EU on the death of protestors. “We deplore in strongest possible terms the use of force and violence, and call on all sides to immediately refrain from it, and start taking steps that would help de-escalate the situation,” said Barroso. “We are genuinely concerned about where these developments are taking Ukraine and will continue following closely these developments, as well as assessing possible actions by the EU and consequences for our relations,” he said.
Monday, the U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey R. Pyatt, spoke on the need to put Ukraine “on a European course,” and noted that such a course need not lead to conflict with Russian trade relations, as “This is not a zero-sum game.”
“We will continue to strongly support freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and respect for human rights that are key values in any democracy and are fundamental to our bilateral relationship,” said Pyatt.