Updated: 02/20/2014 2:45 PM KSTP.com
Activists pay respects to protesters killed in clashes with police, during clashes with riot police in Kiev's Independence Square, the epicenter of the country's current unrest, Thursday, Feb. 20.
Photo: Photo: AP/Efrem Lukatsky
The White House expressed renewed outrage Thursday over the continuing deadly violence in Ukraine but reached no decision on whether to impose sanctions.
Military action by the U.S. is not among the options being considered, deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said. "The options available to the president are being considered with some urgency," he told reporters, adding that sanctions were the only measure under active consideration.
Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had tried to reach the Ukrainian defense ministry to discuss the violence, but "they have been unresponsive to our requests." Kirby said the lack of responsiveness was unprecedented.
In Brussels, the 28-nation European Union decided Thursday in an emergency meeting to impose sanctions against those behind the violence, including a travel ban and an asset freeze against some Ukrainian officials.
President Barack Obama discussed the situation by telephone with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the White House said.
The White House has urged President Viktor Yanukovych to withdraw forces from downtown Kiev immediately.
Earnest said the Ukrainian government has the primary responsibility for keeping the peace but that the Ukrainian people must also respect their right to peaceful protest. He said "having those rights trampled" is a source of some concern to the U.S., and again called on the government and the opposition to negotiate a political solution to restore order.
"Basic human rights that we hold so dear in this country are not being respected in that country," Earnest said.
Ukrainian government snipers fired upon advancing protesters in the capital of Kiev on Thursday, killing at least 70 people and wounding hundreds of others.
At least 101 people have died this week in the clashes, according to protesters and Ukrainian authorities, a sharp and deadly turn in three months of mostly peaceful activity.
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