The chairman of a congressional human rights panel Wednesday condemned the crackdown on pro-Western protesters in Ukraine on the eve of an international civil rights conference in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, gripped in a showdown between riot police and thousands of demonstrators.
In Kiev, Ukrainian officials hosting the summit meeting of the 57-nation Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) appeared embarrassed by the police use of force against peaceful protesters Sunday. Nine demonstrators remained hospitalized Wednesday.
Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, head of the congressional panel that monitors compliance with the European human rights commission, urged delegates to Thursday’s OSCE conference to condemn Ukraine for violating the pledges the former Soviet republic made when it joined the organization in 1992.
“The brutal dispersal of peaceful protests and beatings of dozens of journalists constitute serious violations of Ukraine’s OSCE commitments on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression,” said Mr. Cardin, Maryland Democrat. “I am particularly concerned by reports that the whereabouts of more than a dozen protesters cannot be determined.”
He urged summit delegates to adopt a strongly worded denunciation of Ukraine’s action.
The State Department condemned Sunday the “violence by government authorities against peaceful demonstrators,” after police broke up protests against President Viktor Yushchenko for scrapping plans for closer ties with the European Union and instead pursuing ties with Russia.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Leonid Kozhara tried to spin the chaos in Kiev into an expression of democratic values.
“This meeting … takes place against the background of peaceful public demonstrations in Kiev, which highlight observance by Ukraine of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and association,” he saidWednesday, welcoming the delegates.
The U.S. will be represented at the summit by Victoria Nuland, assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, and Nisha Biswal, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs.
The OSCE includes member nations from Europe through Central Asia.