White House 'appalled' at Ukraine crackdown

The White House said Wednesday that administration officials were "appalled" by a crackdown on protesters in Ukraine overnight.

The Ukrainian government said that police moved on protestors that have flooded city streets in order to allow the resumption of city business. Dozens of protesters were injured in the show of force.

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"The Ukrainian government's response to peaceful protests over the last two weeks has been completely unacceptable, and it's difficult to understand why they have decided to move against their own people repeatedly with force rather than engage in a real dialogue with the opposition," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

"The right to peaceful protest and assembly must be respected. Violence of the sword that we have seen on the streets of Kiev is impermissible in a democratic state."

Demonstrators angered by Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s refusal to sign a trade deal with the European Union have flooded the streets of Kiev over the past week, incensed by his decision instead to join a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. They have also accused the government of cronyism and corruption.

On Sunday, protestors toppled a statue of Vladimir Lenin and called for Yanukovych’s resignation.

The New York Times also reported this week that government security forces in turn raided the opposition party’s headquarters and began an effort to push protesters off main streets near government buildings. The nation’s security services also announced they had opened a treason investigation into unspecified politicians.

Earnest said the White House was "concerned" by those reports, which he called "credible."

"Political repression is not the way to respond to the legitimate grievances of the Ukrainian people," Earnest said.

Earlier this week, Vice President Biden called Yanukovych to express his "deep concern" over the growing potential for violence.

Earnest said that the "lines of communication" remained open between the U.S. and Ukrainian governments.

"There is a pretty clear choice that's facing the Ukrainian government right now, and we're hopeful that they will choose a path that reflects the will of the Ukrainian people and reflects an opportunity for a reconciliation and to restore some civility and peacefulness to that dispute and hopefully find a way to resolve that dispute peacefully," he said.