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EU security committee meets on possible Ukraine sanctions

Pope calls for end to violence

19 February, 13:09
EU security committee meets on possible Ukraine sanctions (see related) (ANSA) - Brussels, February 19 - An extraordinary meeting of the EU Political and Security Committee (PSC) was called Wednesday to discuss possible sanctions for deadly anti-government demonstrations in Ukraine, while Pope Francis called for an end to the bloodshed.

The death toll on Wednesday rose to 26 as well as hundreds of injuries from the Kiev street protests Tuesday.

"With a worried soul, I'm following what's going on in Kiev," said Francis at a general audience in St Peter's Square. "I ask all parties to cease all violent acts and to find a peace agreement for the country". Catherine Ashton, the EU High Commissioner on Foreign Affairs and Security, called the meeting after condemning the escalation of violence as well as the seizure of state and party buildings. Ashton also called on Ukrainian political leaders to "share responsibility" for the crisis, and to "establish a pluralistic government".

The meeting also follows Polish Premier Donald Tusk's appeal to EU countries to impose "personal and financial" sanctions against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and members of his administration. Violence in Ukraine has reached a new peak after three months of protests, sparked by President Viktor Yanukovych opting to forgo a free-trade agreement with the European Union in favor of money from and closer ties with Russia.

A journalist was among those who died in clashes between demonstrators and security forces during anti-government protests in Kiev that also saw protesters occupy public buildings in Kiev and in other cities. The Ukrainian president has accused the opposition of hoping to grab power through the demonstrations and said the opposition had exceeded all limits. International observers fear the situation may degenerate into civil war, while the Russian government has accused the West of meddling.