Top US diplomat comes to Kiev for talks
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian protesters lambasted parliament on Thursday for its lack of action, and a senior U.S. diplomat arrived in Kiev to try to help find a resolution to the country’s grinding political crisis.
Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland met separately with President Viktor Yanukovych and with opposition leaders during her two-day stay in the Ukrainian capital.
A statement on Yanukovych’s website said the president “emphasized that he would do everything to prevent escalation of the conflict.” There were no immediate details about her meeting with the opposition figures.
Two days before Nuland arrived in Kiev on Thursday, a video was posted on YouTube containing audio of an alleged phone call between her and U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt. During it, a voice resembling Nuland’s expresses profane impatience with the European Union over international efforts to resolve Ukraine’s political crisis. U.S. officials said they suspect Russia is behind the leak of the apparently bugged phone conversation.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday condemned alleged outside interference in Ukraine’s affairs, according to his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.
Nuland’s visit comes amid growing frustration over parliament’s failure to enact constitutional reforms and an amnesty for protesters. The legislature met three days this week, but produced no results and adjourned Thursday until next week.
In Kiev on Thursday, about 2,000 demonstrators marched toward parliament carrying a banner reading: “We are tired of waiting.” Protesters said they were ready to resume clashes with police, if parliament’s inaction continued. They want Yanukovych to resign and a new election to be held, as well as more human rights and less corruption in their nation of 45 million people.
The U.S. and the European Union have called for Yanukovych and the opposition to reach a compromise and warned Yanukovych against using more force against the protesters. The massive demonstrations began in late November after the president spurned the EU in favor of getting a $15 billion loan from Russia to shore up his debt-ridden nation.
The European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, adopted a non-binding resolution Thursday urging the bloc’s 28 nations to prepare targeted sanctions such as freezing assets of “Ukrainian officials, legislators and oligarchs personally responsible for the attacks on and deaths of protesters.”
Three protesters were killed in clashes with police and another one was abducted and then found frozen to death.
On Thursday, a commander of the protesters’ self-appointed security corps, Anatoliy Vedmid, said two activists were seriously injured when an apparent parcel bomb exploded at one of the buildings occupied by demonstrators.
Prosecutors in Kiev, meanwhile, said a prominent opposition activist and journalist, Tetyana Chernovil, who was severely beaten in December fell victim to hooliganism, according to the Interfax news agency. Chernovil links the attack to her stories exposing alleged high-level corruption and her participation in the protests.
Jim Heintz in Kiev, Juergen Baetz in Brussels and Matthew Lee in Washington, DC, contributed to this report.