WASHINGTON/KYIEV – Ukraine could be in for some economic trouble in the wake of ongoing violent protests, with the United States preparing to impose financial sanctions and Russia warning that it may withhold its promised $15 billion bailout package for the east European country.
The Reuters news agency citing unnamed Congressional aides said that President Barack Obama’s administration was on Monday preparing financial sanctions that could be imposed on Ukrainian officials and protest leaders if violence escalates there.
The Congressional aides said they had discussed the sanction preparations with administration officials but final details of the package have not been worked out as yet.
“But it could be put in place quickly against government officials – or leaders of the protest movement – in case of widespread violence,” the news agency said.
Washington has also revoked the visas of some Ukrainian officials.
Russia has meanwhile begun to turn economic screws on its neighbour with President Vladimir Putin warning he would wait until Ukraine formed a new government before the $15 billion financial bailout package could be fully implemented.
The warnings came as Ukraine continued to remain in the grip of political crisis even after the government stepped down in a bid to ease out over two-month long protests that at times turned violent killing six people so far.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych Wednesday insisted that he and his government were doing all they can to solve the crisis after protesters rejected the terms of a new amnesty law aimed at ending the unrest.
The protests erupted after President Yanukovich walked away from a treaty with the European Union under pressure from Russia.
“We have fulfilled all the obligations which the authorities took on themselves,” Yanukovych said in a statement.
“However, the opposition continues to whip up the situation calling on people to stand in the cold for the sake of the political ambitions of a few leaders. I think this is wrong.”
He however struck a conciliatory note and added: “From my side, I will show more understanding to the demands and ambitions of people, taking into account the mistakes that authorities always make… I think that we can together return the life of Ukraine and its people to peace.”
Anti-government protesters have been demanding the president’s resignation and were still occupying government buildings and manning barricades in freezing temperatures in the centre of the capital Kiev.
Meanwhile, EU’s foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton arrived in Kiev for talks with both sides.
She has said she was “shocked” by the violence and the country needed “a political process that is engaged in quickly and properly by everyone”.
“The responsibility is inevitably going to fall on government to do that as quickly as possible.”