Thomas O. Melia, the U.S. Department of State Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, offered testimony on Wednesday to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee regarding the situation in Ukraine.
Melia's testimony followed passage of Senate Resolution 319, "Expressing support for the Ukrainian people in light of President Yanukovych's decision not to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union."
In his testimony, Melia stated:
"The U.S. stands with the Ukrainian people in solidarity in their struggle for fundamental human rights and a more accountable government. To that end, we call on the government to intensify its investigations and to bring to justice those responsible for inciting incidents of violence, particularly on November 30 and December 11. Violence and intimidation have no place in a democratic state. We urge the Government of Ukraine to ensure that those who have led or participated in peaceful protests are not subjected to prosecution or other forms of political repression.
"At the same time, we will continue to engage with the Government of Ukraine. Ukraine remains an important partner for the United States. Our overall approach to Ukraine complements what our EU partners are also seeking in their Association Agreement — a Ukraine that is more responsive to its people and that offers its people the opportunities that a growing, free market economy based on the rule of law provides."
Rallies in favor of Ukrainian membership in the EU began in November when Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych announced that Ukraine would not join the EU. Since that decision, Yanukovych sent mixed signals in meetings with EU officials, giving the impression he was still interested in signing an agreement with the EU. However, in mid-December, Yanukovych announced he had agreed to a gas deal with Russia.
Protesters oppose Ukraine's economic alignment with Russia and continue to rally in Kiev.