Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry issued a statement on February 19 condemning the violence in Ukraine, where a crackdown on anti-Yanukovych protesters overnight led to a reported 25 deaths and about 150 injuries.
But the statement made no direct reference to the issue of sanctions against Ukraine, even as influential voices in the European Union made calls for targeted sanctions against the regime in Kyiv and EU foreign ministers were being summoned to a February 20 meeting to discuss the issue.
Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Kristian Vigenin said that a new serious escalation of tensions in Ukraine were leading the country away from achieving an acceptable political solution.
“We believe that the President (Yanukovych) and political leaders in Ukraine should approach the situation with all the necessary political responsibility through dialogue to find a way out of the grave crisis in which the country,” Vigenin said.
Ukraine’s political leaders should not allow matters to reach a point where a return to the political process would become unachievable, Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister said.
“We urge all those involved in the conflict to be guided in their actions by respect for human rights , civil liberties and the will of the Ukrainian people , in order to create conditions for a lasting solution to the real problems of the Ukrainian society.”
Vigenin reminded that EU foreign ministers had agreed on February 10 that a solution should be sought through the establishment of a new government, constitutional reforms to restore the balance between authorities and the preparation of free and fair presidential elections.
He urged the Ukrainian authorities to take advantage of already proposed assistance from the EU, OSCE, Council of Europe and other international organizations.
“We are ready with our partners from the European Union to urgently discuss the situation in Ukraine in order to help find a workable solution to the crisis in the country.”
In a separate statement, the Foreign Ministry issued a travel advisory against Bulgarians travelling to Ukraine.
On February 19, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said he expected EU governments to urgently agree on targeted sanctions “against those responsible for violence and use of excessive force” in Ukraine, news agency Reuters said.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton called an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers to discuss the situation in Ukraine in Brussels on February 20, where sanctions are expected to be discussed, Reuters said.
Polish prime minister Donald Tusk added his voice to the chorus of EU leaders calling for sanctions to be imposed on the government of Ukraine after the violence of February 18, Deutsche Welle reported.
“I will today hold talks with the leaders of the biggest EU countries and institutions, and persuade them to impose sanctions – personal and financial,” Tusk said during a special session of parliament. “I hope that such a stance from Poland will help the EU as a whole in taking fast decisions.”
German chancellor Angela Merkel and French president Francois Hollande held scheduled talks on February 19. Reports said that Hollande had said that he had agreed with Tusk on the need for rapid and targeted sanctions against Ukraine’s government figures.
In Sofia, the anti-government Protest Network called on President Rossen Plevneliev to withdraw from his scheduled attendance of the Sochi Olympics closing ceremony on February 23.
The opening ceremony in Sochi was attended by Plamen Oresharski, prime minister in the BSP cabinet. Both he and Plevneliev confirmed before the start of the Winter Olympics that they would be attending, Oresharski the opening ceremony and Plevneliev the closing ceremony.
“In front of the whole world, President Yanukovych has bathed in blood the resistance of the Ukrainian people against Russian neo-imperialism,” said the Protest Network, formed in 2013 to campaign for the resignation of the Bulgarian Socialist Party government.
Citing the “refusal of a proud nation to kneel before Putin,” the Protest Network said that there could be only one, unambiguous, response to the killing of people.
It remains to be seen whether Plevneliev will heed the call, but the president’s office said on February 19 that he condemned the “instances of violence in Ukraine and calls on the country’s political leaders to undertake the urgent steps to find a peaceful and democratic solution to the crisis.”
“The latest escalation of violence in Ukraine, which led to the deaths of tens of Ukrainians – protesters and law enforcement officers – is unacceptable in a democratic country ruled by law,” Plevneliev said in the statement.
He joined the calls asking both the government and the opposition to “establish constructive dialogue and finding a political solution that would end violence and stabilise the country. A lasting decision can be found only through public debate and agreement for the democratic development of the country.”
Last month, Plevneliev said he would postpone his visit to Ukraine, scheduled for May 2014, because of human rights violations and political instability in that country. As he did at that time, he once again expressed his sincerest condolences to the families of those who had died and the wishes for a speedy recovery to those injured in the clashes in Ukraine, the president’s office said.
Separately, on social networks in Bulgaria a protest was organised, to be held in front of the Ukrainian embassy in Sofia at 6pm on February 19.
(Photo: EuroMaydan, via Facebook)