Obama 'actively considering' more Ukraine sanctions as EU moves ahead

The Obama administration is “actively considering” slapping more sanctions on Ukrainian officials after dozens more protesters were killed overnight, the White House said Thursday.

The comments from spokesman Josh Earnest come as the European Union voted Thursday to introduce “targeted sanctions including asset freeze and visa ban against those responsible for human rights violations, violence and use of excessive force.” The State Department on Wednesday issued visa bans and asset freezes for 20 Ukrainian officials.

“There are a range of options that are available,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said. “It is fair to say that a range of options is being actively considered at the White House.”

He said he was “not surprised” by the EU decision because the U.S. has been in “close cooperation” with its European allies as the crisis has unfolded.

“The European Union is appalled and deeply dismayed by the deteriorating situation in Ukraine,” the EU said in a statement announcing its sanctions. “No circumstances can justify the repression we are currently witnessing.”

Earnest repeatedly referred to President Viktor Yanukovych's responsibility to allow “peaceful protests,” despite rising violence that has included protesters killing and taking police officers hostage. The White House acknowledged the deteriorating situation but said most of the blame lay with Yanukovych's government.

“The government in Ukraine ... has the primary responsibility for making sure that the violence that we've seen does not continue,” Earnest said. “Now that doesn't absolve protesters of their responsibility to exercise their right to peaceful protests in a peaceful manner, but the government of Ukraine has a unique responsibility to allow and to protect the rights of assembly and peaceful protest and freedom of speech that the Ukrainian people are seeking to exercise.”

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