Dec. 11 (UPI) -- Secretary of State John Kerry issued a statement in response to the situation in the Ukraine, where the government responded aggressively to protestors early Wednesday morning in the capital.
Secretary Kerry's expression of "disgust" comes two days after Vice President Joe Biden telephoned Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovich to communicate his "deep concern" about the potential for violence in the Ukraine, where demonstrators have been protesting since November 21 against the president's decision not to sign a trade deal with the European Union.
The United States expresses its disgust with the decision of Ukrainian authorities to meet the peaceful protest in Kyiv's Maidan Square with riot police, bulldozers, and batons, rather than with respect for democratic rights and human dignity. This response is neither acceptable nor does it befit a democracy.
Last week in Brussels and Moldova, I underscored publicly the importance of all sides avoiding violence and called on President Yanukovych to fulfill the aspirations of the Ukranian people. We put the government on notice about our concern.
As Vice President Biden made clear to President Yanukovych during their phone call yesterday, respect for democratic principles, including freedom of assembly, is fundamental to the United States' approach to Ukraine. This is a universal value not just an American one. For weeks, we have called on President Yanukovych and his government to listen to the voices of his people who want peace, justice and a European future. Instead, Ukraine's leaders appear tonight to have made a very different choice.
We call for utmost restraint. Human life must be protected. Ukrainian authorities bear full responsibility for the security of the Ukrainian people.
As church bells ring tonight amidst the smoke in the streets of Kyiv, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine. They deserve better.
Demonstrations in Kiev began after President Yanukovich announced on November 21 that Ukraine would not sign a trade deal with the EU, a move that was seen as bowing to pressure from Russia and thwarting Ukraine's attempts to advance its economy.
Protesters were further enraged following a meeting last Friday between Yanukovich and Russian President Vladimir Putin, which was seen by the opposition as further evidence of Ukrainian involvement in a Russian-led regional trade pact. On Sunday, protesters toppled a statue of Soviet leader hero Vladimir Lenin in Kiev.
Monday, opposition offices were raided by "masked men" whom opposition members believed were "special ops" although the police denied responsibility. The raid occurred after the president posted an announcement on his website that he would support dialogue with the opposition.
[U.S. Department of State] [UPI]