Hagel Calls Ukrainian Defense Minister, Warns Against Using Force on Protestors

Anti-government protesters use snow to reinforce a barricade blocking street access to Independence Square, known as the Euromaidan, on December 11 in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

Anti-government protesters use snow to reinforce a barricade blocking street access to Independence Square, known as the Euromaidan, on December 11 in Kiev, Ukraine. (Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images)

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned his Ukrainian counterpart on Wednesday against using military forces against thousands protesting the country’s abandoning plans to join the European Union.

Riot police have clashed with protestors who are angry that Ukraine has decided to realign itself with Russia.

Pentagon Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog, in an email, characterized Hagel’s call with Ukrainian Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedyev like this:

Secretary Hagel warned Minister Lebedyev not to use the Armed Forces of Ukraine against the civilian population in any fashion. He underlined the potential damage of any involvement by the military in breaking up the demonstrations and called for restraint.  Minister Lebedyev stated that it is President [Viktor] Yanukovych’s position not to use the Armed Forces against the protestors and said he would pass the Secretary’s message directly to President Yanukovych.

For the past two weeks, thousands of people have been protesting a decision by Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych to suspend a trade and partnership agreement with the European Union in favor of incentives from Russia.

Victoria Nuland, US assistant secretary of state for European and European affairs, said this following her meeting with Yanukovych:

“Hello Ukraine! It is my honor to have been here in these historic and difficult days. I hope the people of Ukraine know that the United States stands with you in your search for justice, for human dignity, for security, for economic health and for the European future that you have chosen and you deserve. I just spent more than two hours with President Yanukovych. It was a tough conversation, but it was a realistic one. I made it absolutely clear to him that what happened last night, what has been happening in security terms here, is absolutely impermissible in a European state, in a democratic state. But we also made clear that we believe there is a way out for Ukraine, that it is still possible to save Ukraine’s European future and that is what we want to see the President lead. But that is going to require immediate security steps and getting back into a conversation with Europe and with the International Monetary Fund, and bringing justice and dignity to the people of Ukraine. I have no doubt after our meeting that President Yanukovych knows what he needs to do. The whole world is watching. We want to see a better future for Ukraine. Thank you all. I am going home to report to my government.”

Marcus Weisgerber
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Marcus Weisgerber

Senior Pentagon Correspondent at Defense News
I write about broad-ranging policy, acquisition and budget issues affecting the US military.
Marcus Weisgerber
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