Protests in Ukraine

Basic democratic rights must be guaranteed says Chancellor

Following reports of the first deaths during demonstrations in Kyiv, the German government is "extremely concerned and shocked," declared Chancellor Angela Merkel in no uncertain terms in Meseberg. She called on both the government and the opposition to return to peaceful dialogue.

In a telephone conversation with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Angela Merkel expressed her dismay over the most recent outbreaks of violence in Kyiv and condemned these strongly. She called urgently on the President to engage in a serious dialogue with the opposition and achieve tangible results.

In Meseberg, the Chancellor had already reaffirmed the position of her government, as communicated by Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Frank-Walter Steinmeier to his Ukrainian opposite number on Wednesday in a telephone conversation. Germany expects the Ukrainian government to guarantee democratic liberties - "especially the right to protest". The government must also "protect human lives" and above all ensure "that there is no use of violence".

Dismay at new legislation

The Chancellor said that the German government is "extremely concerned, and not only concerned but also dismayed" at the way Ukraine’s parliament has rushed through legislation that calls these fundamental rights into question. Germany will endeavour intensively to ensure that the opposition in Ukraine is able to make use of the fundamental right to peaceful protest.

The Chancellor advocated that talks to this end should be held between the Ukrainian government and the opposition. It is "the duty of every government" to ensure that people can express their opinions freely, she said. The German government does not consider that this is currently the case in Ukraine.

Opening up channels for talks

Nevertheless, sanctions "are not what is called for at this time," said Angela Merkel. On this point she is in full agreement with the Federal Foreign Minister. What is important now is to prevent violence and exert influence to ensure that "a reasonable legal environment is in place in Ukraine". "A wide variety of contacts exist to opposition forces, " she added.

All that Germany can do at the moment, "and I see the same trend across Europe," said the Chancellor, "is to ensure that channels for talks are opened up". The Ukrainian government must accept its responsibility for "restoring fundamental democratic rights".

Violence is not the answer, says Frank-Walter Steinmeier

On Wednesday Frank-Walter Steinmeier spoke to his Ukrainian opposite number Leonid Kozhara on the telephone. "These are terrible pictures that have been emerging from the Ukrainian capital overnight, " declared the Federal Foreign Minister, who was in Montreux for the conference on Syria. "This morning’s reports of deaths are devastating."

"I can understand the frustration of the opposition. For days and weeks they have seen no progress. Neither the government nor the president has made any real effort to resolve the political stalemate," declared the minister. Nevertheless, Germany’s position was and is that violence is not the answer.

"At the same time, we say directly to President Yanukovych that the response of the Ukrainian state cannot be to resort to violence since that would simply result in more victims." It is the duty of the government to protect peaceful demonstrations.

On 16 January Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, rushed through an extensive package of legislation, which gives the government legal powers to step up repression.

Last weekend, in response to the change in the law, massive crowds of some 100,000 people gathered in Kyiv to protest, and demand clear prospects from opposition leaders. Numerous people were injured on both sides in clashes. Security forces’ buses were torched.