Foreign ministers to visit Kyiv before EU meeting

Foreign Ministers from France, Germany, and Poland will travel to Kyiv Thursday before an emergency European Union meeting to consider sanctions against Ukrainian leaders for violence authorities say has killed at least 26 people.

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius says he will travel with his German counterpart Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski.

“We shall meet tomorrow morning the different elements, the different actors in Kiev,” he told a news conference. “And stemming from that we shall encourage them to find a way of dialogue. And stemming from that we will be back in Brussels to take decisions that are necessary.”

Fabius spoke to reporters in Paris before meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who said Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych has a choice.”The choice is between protecting the people that he serves, all of the people, and a choice for compromise and dialogue versus violence and mayhem,” Kerry said.

He said Washington is also considering sanctions against Ukrainian leaders “in order to create the environment for compromise.”

“Our desire is for Mr. Yanukovych to bring people together, dialog with the opposition, find a measure of compromise, and put the broad interests of the people of Ukraine out front,” Kerry said. “We are convinced there is still space for that to happen.  The violence can be avoided, and in the end the aspirations of the people of Ukraine can be met.”

Aides say President Barack Obama is being kept informed about the Kyiv situation while in Mexico for a meeting late Wednesday with the Mexican and Canadian leaders.

According to deputy U.S. National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, Washington believes the threat of sanctions could induce better behavior from Ukrainian leaders.

He said Wednesday’s violent crackdown on protestors clearly impacts U.S. decision making.  If on the other hand, the government pulls back, releases prisoners and pursues dialogue with the opposition, he said, that would obviously factor into the Obama administration’s calculus as well.

Earlier Wednesday, during a joint news conference in Paris,  French and German leaders announced their backing for targeted sanctions.German Chancellor Angela Merkel said both countries agree the European Union should slap sanctions against those behind Ukraine’s worst violence to date.  Merkel would not say whether Ukraine’s leader Victor Yanukovych should count among those targeted by possible EU sanctions.

“The political process must be relaunched, because only the political process can contribute to reestablishing peace,” Merkel told reporters, “and we are searching all the contacts possible, including in the direction of Russia.”

French President Francois Hollande said the bloc can’t remain passive in the face of the bloodshed in Kyiv.

“Ukraine is not in Europe [as in the European union], but Ukraine is in Europe [geographically],”  Hollande said.

Anti-Yanukovych protests began in late November after the Ukrainian president backed away from closer political and economic ties to the European Union in favor of a $15 billion bailout from Russia.

Russia has repeatedly warned European powers to stay out of the affairs of the former Soviet republic.  EU sanctions to be considered Thursday in Brussels include a freeze on assets and a travel ban within the 28-member bloc.