Bulgarian President Rossen Plevneliev has postponed a planned May 2014 visit to Ukraine because of human rights violations and political instability in that country, his office said on January 22.
Plevneliev’s announcement came after reports of three anti-government protesters having died amid violence in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, with large numbers of people injured as police and protesters engaged in clashes.
Bulgaria’s President was deeply concerned at the escalation of tensions in Ukraine which had resulted in the deaths of civilians and expressed his sincerest condolences to the families of those who had died, Plevneliev’s office said.
The use of force against civil demonstrators was unacceptable and could not resolve the political crisis in the country, the statement said.
Laws restricting the rights of citizens were in contradiction of “European values”.
Plevneliev called on Ukrainian authorities to initiate dialogue with the opposition and civil society to deal with the situation and to bring normalisation so that there could be a peaceful environment in the country.
Bulgaria always had supported the European development of Ukraine and in spite of the decision by the Ukrainian authorities to postpone the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU, which was a disappointment for both Bulgaria and the EU, the door of the EU remained open for a democratic Ukraine that respected human rights, Plevneliev said.
The Voice of America, reporting that three people had died in clashes in Kyiv, said that two protesters were reported to have gunshot wounds. A medical official said another activist fell to his death at the site of the clashes.
Reports say the police were trying to dismantle a protest camp in Kyiv on January 22 and fired tear gas at demonstrators, who responded by hurling stones and homemade explosives at police.
The United States embassy in Kyiv said in a statement on January 22 that it had revoked the visas of several Ukrainian nationals linked to the violence. The names of those Ukrainians were not released, VOA said.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged “an immediate end” to the escalating violence. After the reports of deaths, she “strongly” condemned the violence.
European Commission President José Manuel Barroso said in a January 22 statement, “we are shocked to hear the latest news from Ukraine about deaths of protesters, and express our deepest condolences to their families. 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.
“The overall environment has been worsening for some time and I would like to explicitly underline the fundamental responsibility of the Ukrainian authorities to now take action to deescalate this crisis and in particular the need for them to engage in a genuine dialogue with the opposition and with civil society on the ways to overcome this deep crisis,” Barroso said.
He said that the EU was also following with great concern the recent restrictions on fundamental freedoms including freedom of expression and freedom of the media.
“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,” Barroso said.
In Washington, a state department spokesperson said that the US “strongly condemns” the increasing violence on the streets of Kyiv which had led to deaths and injuries.
“We urge all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation and refrain from violence. Increased tensions in Ukraine are a direct consequence of the Ukrainian government’s failure to engage in real dialogue and the passage of anti-democratic legislation on January 16.
“However, the aggressive actions of members of extreme-right group Pravy Sektor are not acceptable and are inflaming conditions on the streets and undermining the efforts of peaceful protestors. We likewise deplore violence by unofficial groups known as ‘titushki’,” the state department spokesperson said.
“We also condemn the targeted attacks against journalists and peaceful protestors, including detentions. The Maidan movement has been defined by a spirit of non-violence that we strongly support.”
The US urged the government of Ukraine to take steps “that represent a better way forward for Ukraine, including repeal of the anti-democratic legislation and beginning a national dialogue with the political opposition”.
The US had already revoked visas of several people responsible for violence, and would continue to consider additional steps in response to the use of violence by any of those involved, the state department said.
Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said on January 22 that the situation in Ukraine was “spinning out of control.” He said that Russia was doing everything it could to help “stabilise the situation” without meddling in Ukrainian domestic affairs.
On January 21, urging restraint amid widespread anti-government protests in Ukraine, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called for sustained and inclusive dialogue to defuse tensions in the country.
“The violent clashes over the past few days in the centre of Kiev, which reportedly resulted in many people being injured, are very worrying,” Pillay said. “I appeal to all parties to engage in constructive dialogue to avoid further escalation of the unrest.
“The longer they wait, the more difficult it will become to resolve the impasse,” she said.
(Photo: The Euromaidan Journalist Collective, via Facebook)