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Murphy and Other Senators Urge Ukraine to Join EU, Stress Sanctions if Violence Continues

Updated: December 17, 2013, 3:30 p.m.

By Ann-Marie Adams, Staff Writer

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy on Monday said that if Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych decides to align with Russia instead of the European Union, the U.S. would likely impose sanctions on the economically fragile nation, which reportedly is in bankruptcy.

“We made it clear that sanctions are an option—should there be more violence on the square,” said Murphy who chairs the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs. He stressed the U.S.’s stance on trade talks between Ukraine and the EU during a call to reporters on Monday.

The tug-of-war situation in Europe has prompted concerns for Connecticut’s substantial Ukrainian population, which has an institutional base in Hartford. Murphy plans to meet with this community on Sunday morning in the capital city.

In a resolution last week, the junior senator also joined other senators in calling for a peaceful end to the crisis that unfolded after Yanukovych seemingly reneged on plans to integrate with the EU.

Other co-sponsors urging Yanukovych to reconsider his tactic are  U.S. Senators Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), Ranking Member on the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to announce the passage of a resolution that “made it clear” to Ukraine that the US would support the country if it continued talks with and joined the European Union.

The resolution, officials said, calls for the U.S. Senate to consider sanctions against those responsible for any further acts of violence against peaceful demonstrators.

“It’s unacceptable that these peaceful demonstrations are being met with aggressive resistance and even violence by the Yanukovych government,” the senators said. “This resolution makes clear that further violence by the government will have consequences for our bilateral relationship. Hopefully, President Yanukovych will realize that his government will ultimately need to move in the direction its people want to succeed in the future.”

Responding to inquiries about whether the U.S. government was meddling in European affairs– bringing democracy around the world instead of taking an isolationist stance and focus only on domestic affairs, Murphy said:

“It’s in the interest of the U.S. for Ukraine to join the EU. Ukraine is of great strategic importance to the US, straddling Europe and Asia.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) join other senators to speak out against violence against protesters in the Ukraine.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn) and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) join other senators to speak out against violence against protesters in the Ukraine.

The geopolitics underlying Ukraine’s strategy for concessions is evident to many observers. The Ukraine, with about 45 million people, is strategically important to Europeans, but it is especially crucial to Russia beyond economic and trade ties, namely for military reasons.  Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is in the Ukraine, which is on borderland between Russia and Europe.

The EU is a non-governmental body, which consists of 28 European countries that turned over part of their sovereignty to the Union to help build prosperity in Europe and raise living standards. Several years ago, the EU launched a single European currency (the euro), and is now building a single Europe-wide free market for goods, services, people, and capital, according to euinusa.org.

Although Ukrainians are scattered throughout Connecticut, mostly in the Northeast corner of the state, the capital city is home to Ukrainian National Home of Hartford, Inc. And the Ukrainian community has been following talks with the EU since Nov. 1, said President of the Ukrainian-American Youth Association in Hartford, Myron Kolinsky.

“We’re supportive of Ukraine’s democracy,” Kolinsky said. “We will continue to support freedom of assembly, and we will stand with the peaceful protesters.”

The news of Ukraine’s suspended talks with EU and plans to begin talks about rival trade and economic deals with Russia came as a surprise to Kolinsky and others.

According to reports, plans for a secured EU agreement began to unravel just before the Nov. 28th meeting, in which Yanukovych refused to sign the agreement. That’s after he had pledged to integrate into the EU after the country’s three-year agreement to integrate into the EU.

On Nov. 30 at 4:30 a.m. riot police attacked peaceful protesters in Euromaidan, at Independence Square in the city of  Kiev. On Dec. 1, about 300,000 Ukrainians poured into the square, attracting worldwide attention. And on Dec. 10, riot police attacked peaceful protesters again.

In Hartford, people responded to the mass protest and disruptions on Dec. 11 with a candlelight vigil in front of the  Ukrainian headquarters.

Also last week, state and city leaders ordered Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag to fly at the state capitol and at city hall “in support of Ukraine’s freedom and democracy.”

Hartford also had its own peaceful protest last week.  In fact, several Ukrainians and their European allies created their own Euromaidan in the city’s South End, in solidarity with Ukrainians abroad and in Chicago, New York, San Francisco and other US cities.

On Saturday, Murphy joined Sen. John McCain and other diplomats in Kiev to meet with Yanukovych.

The two-hour meeting produced mixed results, Murphy said.  After the meeting, Yanukovych on Sunday posted a statement saying he had “stressed the immutability of European integration by Ukraine.” But he also suspended top-ranking officials, including Kiev’s Mayor Olexander Popov.

The Ukrainian community is scheduled to meet  on Dec. 22  between noon. and 2 p.m. at Ukraine-American National Headquarters on 961 Wethersfield Ave.

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