While Ukrainian riot police have reportedly left Kiev's Independence Square, one of the United States' top diplomats says she has told President Viktor Yanukovych that "what happened last night, what has been happening in security terms here, is absolutely impermissible in a European state, in a democratic state."
Victoria Nuland's sharp words followed Tuesday's crackdown at the square. As we reported, "hundreds of riot police ... stormed an anti-government camp in the capital's Independence Square, with police dismantling barricades amid shouts of 'Shame!' and 'We will stand!' from protesters."
Nuland was in Kiev on Wednesday. She reported that she "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, Nuland added, "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."
The State department also posted pictures of Nuland offering food to some of the protesters and to some of the riot police.
Also in Kiev on Wednesday to pressure the government to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis: European Union diplomat Catherine Ashton.
The protests, as we wrote Tuesday, began late last month after Yanukovych "backed away from an agreement to strengthen economic ties with the 28-nation European Union — a pact that enjoyed the support of roughly half of the people in the former Soviet republic. By moving closer to the EU, Ukraine would have weakened links with Russia, which has dominated the region for centuries."
NPR's Corey Flintoff is in Kiev. He reports that it's hard to say what will happen next. It was "a shock to everyone when the government decided to bring in riot troops and try to forceably clear the square," he tells our Newscast Desk.
Secretary of State John Kerry said after the police action that the U.S. is "disgusted" by the use of force. His predecessor, Hillary Clinton, tweeted Wednesday that she was "on my way back to the U.S. from Madiba's [Nelson Mandela's] funeral and watching what's going on in Ukraine with alarm."