NPR Story
2:54 pm
Thu February 20, 2014

Death Toll Mounts In Ukraine

The top medic for the protesters occupying central Kiev says at least 70 protesters have been killed in clashes with police in the Ukrainian capital.

The coordinator for the protesters’ medical team also says the number killed Thursday could well go even higher.

There was no way to independently confirm his statement. An AP reporter earlier in the day saw at least 21 bodies in Kiev’s central square.

The carnage appears to show that neither President Viktor Yanukovych nor the opposition leaders he met with yesterday are in control of the chaos engulfing Ukraine. An appeal for a truce after the meeting was largely ignored.

Jones Hayden of Bloomberg News joins Here & Now’s Robin Young with the latest.

Guest

  • Jones Hayden, Brussels bureau chief for Bloomberg News.
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Transcript

ROBIN YOUNG, HOST:

From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW.

Jeremy Hobson is up in a moment with a look at a controversial bill in Idaho that would ban secret videotaping of farms. But first, the death toll is mounting in Ukraine.

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YOUNG: Anti-government protesters say dozens of people were killed today battling with riot police in the capital city, Kiev. The pictures do show many protesters fallen. The Ukrainian Interior Ministry says protesters have captured dozens of police officers, and reporters say they saw protesters leading policemen with their hands up away.

In a statement, President Obama urged Ukraine's president to immediately withdraw security forces from downtown Kiev. In Kiev, European Union leaders are holding emergency meetings with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders to try to broker some kind of agreement. And in Brussels, EU foreign ministers unanimously agreed today to sanctions.

Jones Hayden is the Brussels bureau chief for Bloomberg News. Jones, tell us more about what they decided.

JONES HAYDEN: Well, they've kind of been forced into something here because of all the violence that has erupted just recently in Kiev and elsewhere in the Ukraine. And they've decided to impose asset freezes, visa bans, travel bans on Ukrainian officials. And they've also put a ban on export licenses for what they call equipment that could be used for internal repression.

YOUNG: But who are these bans against, do we know? Because we know this is - as many are putting it, it's a battle over the identity of Ukraine - about 46 million people. But the loyalties are divided. Some of the people agree with the protesters. They want Ukraine to be closer with Europe. Others are very much against that. The country split. They want to maintain the stronger ties with Russia.

So who, you know, who is going to - who are these bans going to be considered against?

HAYDEN: Well, the EU is thinking mostly about the government. In fact, Germany's Angela Merkel came out today and said the main responsibility for the violence there lies in the leadership of the state. So they're clearly targeting the administration, the regime with these. But at the same time, they haven't said who.

They are now coming up with a list of the specific people that they are going to target with these sanctions, but we don't expect to get that before Saturday. Ireland's minister said he expected by the end of the week. So Saturday is probably the earliest that we'd be able to see that.

YOUNG: Yeah. Well, and we spoke with the BBC reporter earlier today who confirmed that, you know, some critics of just blaming the government have said that, well, there are right-wing thugs who have joined the opposition. So was there any discussion of that with the EU that some in the opposition might also be targeted with some kind of punishment?

HAYDEN: I don't think there was much discussion of that among the ministers today. That discussion is going to take place among the technical staff who are coming up with a list. But that's a tough one for them because, you know, their - the main point, the main objective for the EU here is to stop the violence, OK? And they've said very clearly that whoever's responsible for the violence should be targeted and should be brought to justice. So it's going to be a tough call. They're going to have come up with a very specific list on this account.

YOUNG: Yeah. And the accounts we're getting out of Kiev today are just horrific. A volunteer medic who is on the side of the opposition sent out a brief Twitter message saying: I'm dying. She'd been shot in the head. She's said to be in serious condition after being operated on. We're seeing pictures of opposition members dragging bodies away that have also been shot. So it sounds like you're saying they're seeing this in Brussels as well.

JONES HADYEN: Yes. In fact, the UK's Hague talked about the widespread horror of the reports that they've seen coming out of Kiev and elsewhere in the Ukraine. And, in fact, the four of the - three of the foreign ministers - of the EU foreign ministers - were in Kiev today to try to talk with the administration and other people in the opposition to try to work something out on this. But it's unclear how much progress they made.

YOUNG: You're talking about William Hague of the UK. Meanwhile, though, Russia's foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the sanctions were like blackmail. What's the sense of what - how they might reverberate out, what the reaction might be?

HADYEN: The hope is that they lead to a quelling of the violence. But the EU has said that they're going to put them in place in a progressive kind of way so that if the violence continues, if it escalates, then they're going to tighten them even more, apply them to more people or whatever it takes in order to calm the violence.

It's an interesting conundrum that they're in because up until earlier this week, the EU wasn't even talking about sanctions against the Ukraine. They were only trying, you know, talking about their economic and political agreements that they want to sign. But, of course, they have Russia's Putin on the other side who has offered a deal of his own.

YOUNG: And that being?

HADYEN: He gave them a bailout of about 15 billion euros.

YOUNG: Yeah. Right. Meanwhile - in the three seconds we have - any sense of whether the U.S. will join the EU in the sanctions?

HADYEN: They're certainly talking about it. And the EU has said that they will impose sanctions in a coordinated manner. So they're certainly talking with the U.S. about how to go about calming things down over there.

YOUNG: Yeah. Jones Hayden, Brussels bureau chief for Bloomberg News as the EU meets today and decides to impose sanctions on whoever's causing violence in Ukraine. We'll see how that unfolds as that violence has increased very much today. Jones, thanks so much.

HADYEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.