WASHINGTON — The United States has banned visas for 20 top Ukrainian officials in the wake of violence that has left dozens of anti-government protesters dead, a senior State Department official said on Wednesday.
"Today we moved to restrict visas, to ban visa issuance to some 20 senior members of the Ukrainian government and other individuals who we consider responsible for ordering or otherwise directing human rights abuses related to political repression in Ukraine," the official said on a call with reporters.
"We had been quite clear that if there was another unleashing of security forces against peaceful protesters that we would take sanctions measures," the official said.
The new round of visa bans comes after the United States revoked the visas of several Ukrainian officials, a list which was said to include the Interior Minister and a top advisor to President Viktor Yanukovych, after a previous crackdown on protesters.
The official declined to name the individuals who are being denied visas but said, "What I will say is that these individuals represent the full chain of command that we consider responsible for ordering security forces to move against the Maidan yesterday." The list is comprised of civilian officials.
Senators John McCain and Chris Murphy are also working on legislation that would enact sanctions against individuals responsible for the Ukraine violence, BuzzFeed learned on Wednesday.
The official also criticized Russia for its role in destabilizing the situation in Ukraine.
"They have not been transparent about what they've been doing in Ukraine," the official said of the Russians. "We completely reject their notion that it is we who have been interfering."
"I would put the question back to the Kremlin," the official said. "What do they support? Don't we today have a shared interest in restoring Ukraine to stability, to restoring political unity. to protecting the integrity of the state, to de-escalating on the street?"