Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, seen here speaking with service members Dec. 6 aboard USS Ponce, has not been in touch recently with Ukrainian Defense Minister Pavel Lebedev despite efforts to engage with him, a Pentagon spokesman said. (MCS1 Felicito Rustique / Navy)
Obama: U.S. outraged by images of Ukraine violence
WASHINGTON — The White House says the U.S. is outraged by violence in Ukraine and is urging President Viktor Yanukovych (yah-noo-KOH’-vich) to withdraw forces from downtown Kiev immediately.
Press Secretary Jay Carney says the U.S. urges Ukraine’s military not to get involved in a conflict that must be resolved politically. He says the White House is outraged at images of Ukrainian security forces firing automatic guns on Ukrainian people.
Carney says in a statement that Ukraine should respect the right of protest and that protesters must be peaceful. The statement calls for dialogue to reduce tensions and address the people’s grievances.
Street battles between protesters and police have left dozens dead and hundreds wounded, raising fears of an uncontrollable spiral of violence in the ex-Soviet state. The U.S. has already threatened sanctions.
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has not spoken to his Ukrainian counterpart since troops there fired automatic weapons on civilians, Rear Adm. John Kirby, Hagel’s spokesman, said Thursday.
Hagel has not been in touch recently with Defense Minister Pavel Lebedev despite efforts to engage with him, Kirby said.
The White House condemned the latest attacks, calling on President Viktor Yanukovych to withdraw his forces from central Kiev.
Pentagon officials have been urging Ukrainian troops to “remain on the sidelines,” said Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman. Their use of force would have consequences for the relationship between the countries, he said.
Hagel spoke with Lebedev on Dec. 13 and “warned Minister Lebedev not to use the armed forces of Ukraine against the civilian population in any fashion,” according to a statement issued then by Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog. “He underlined the potential damage of any involvement by the military in breaking up the demonstrations and called for restraint.”
Ukraine is a member of NATO’s “Partnership for Peace” program. That arrangement allows for NATO to help European countries that are not part of the alliance to modernize their military forces. Ukraine has been a member of the program, which also provides training for those countries to enable them to take part in western military operations. Ukraine, for example, sent troops to Iraq.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen also called on his Twitter feed Thursday for Ukraine’s military to remain neutral.