BRUSSELS, Feb. 19, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- AJC is outraged by the Ukrainian government's deadly response to peaceful demonstrators.
"President Viktor Yanukovich's use of naked violence has called into question his government's very legitimacy," said AJC Executive Director David Harris.
"For those who cherish democratic values, including the right to peaceful assembly and protest, it is incumbent to be heard and to make clear that such behavior is totally unacceptable," Harris continued. "These events pose a particular challenge for Europe and the United States, which need to underscore that, if Ukraine is to have a bright future in the international community, there must be an immediate end to the use of violence and an intensive discussion about a change of direction."
Clashes at Kiev's Independence Square, where demonstrators have gathered since November, escalated in the past 24 hours, leaving at least 25 dead, and the threatening prospect that the government's security forces will attempt to forcefully clear the area.
Yanukovich was democratically elected in 2010, but a combination of corruption and his last-minute -- and unexpected -- refusal to sign an economic cooperation agreement that he had sought with the European Union, led to the mass protests. In recent days, the demonstrations have spread to other population centers in this country of 45 million.
"The promise of a democratic and peaceful Ukraine hangs in the balance," said Harris. "The Ukrainian leadership, supported by Moscow, bears primary responsibility for the deepening crisis. They should heed the urgent calls of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, President Obama, and European leaders to rethink their approach and respond with understanding to the legitimate aspirations of the Ukrainian people."
SOURCE American Jewish Committee