BBG Watch Commentary

Marie Harf 1-22-14

UPDATE 3:00 PM EST, Jan. 22, 2014

As of 3:00PM EST, one of today’s two VOA English News reports on Ukraine has this one short sentence: “The U.S. State Department has condemned the violence, which erupted as sweeping new anti-protest laws came into force.”

This sentence probably refers to an earlier State Department statement rather than today’s statement on the deaths of demonstrators in Kyiv.

Later, VOA inserted these additional sentences:

“In Washington, a U.S. State Department spokeswoman condemned the latest violence, and said the Obama administration is considering sanctions against the government, if President Yanukovych “fails to protect the democratic rights of all Ukrainians, including the rights of peaceful protest.”

Marie Harf blamed the violence on both the government and far-right extremists. She said the rightists are ‘inflaming conditions on the streets and undermining the efforts of peaceful protestors’.”

The VOA report, to which these sentences were later added, dealt primarily with EU reactions to violence in Ukraine: “EU Threatens Action in Response to Ukraine Violence,” Henry Ridgwell, VOA, Jan. 22, 2014.

We were actually going to praise VOA for posting this comprehensive news report after criticism from BBG Watch yesterday that VOA English website keeps ignoring both U.S. and EU reactions to events in Ukraine. VOA made up to some degree for its failures yesterday with this report, but it still continues to either ignore or downplay U.S. reactions.

The VOA report was filed from London. VOA still does not have a correspondent in Kyiv who could report for the VOA English website.

Link to video.


Marie Harf
Deputy Spokesperson
U.S. State Department
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
January 22, 2014

QUESTION: Ukraine?

MS. HARF: Yes.

QUESTION: Where do we begin?

MS. HARF: You’ve got the statement we put out.

QUESTION: Yes, we did. I noted that you criticized the government as well as some of these informal groups and some of the ultranationalist types. What exactly is going on? Because previously, I don’t think that you had really specifically named them.

MS. HARF: Yeah. No, it’s a good question. I trust here that a large majority of the protestors here, and certainly the Maidan protestors, are peaceful. And we’ve said repeatedly that – called them that, peaceful protestors, and said that the government should not use violence against them.

There are these small – I mean, I have a little bit on that. Obviously, you saw our – saw – excuse me – our statement. But we do as well condemn the violent actions by some extreme right-wing demonstrators. There are these very small parties, a very small part of the demonstrations, and so that’s why we’re calling on all sides to refrain from violence. But again, I trust that a majority of these protestors are nonviolent.

QUESTION: And what kind of additional steps you could take, you could take to response to the violence in Ukraine? I mean, you mentioned in your statement that you could – you would consider additional steps. What could —

MS. HARF: Mm-hmm. Including possibly sanctions. I don’t have more details on what those sanctions might look like. But we will continue to consider additional steps, as I said, including sanctions, in response to the use of violence. We urge – continue to urge President Yanukovych and his government to protect the democratic rights of all Ukrainians, including the right to peaceful protest. And if we have to take additional steps, we will.

As of 1:45 PM EST, VOA English website is still not reporting the latest U.S. State Department reaction to deaths of anti-government demonstrators in Ukraine.

The VOA Ukrainian Service website, however, has already posted the State Department spokesperson’s statement. The VOA Russian Service has also posted the statement online.

As of 2:00 PM EST, VOA English website and those of most other VOA language services are still not reporting on the latest U.S. State Department statement on Ukraine.

VOA English website is still showing a report without the latest reaction from Washington to events in Ukraine.

Statement by Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf on the Reported Deaths in Ukraine Street Clashes
Office of the Spokesperson

January 22, 2014

The United States strongly condemns the increasing violence on the streets of Kyiv, which has led to casualties and the shooting deaths of two protesters. We urge all sides to immediately de-escalate the situation and refrain from violence. Increased tensions in Ukraine are a direct consequence of the Ukrainian government’s failure to engage in real dialogue and the passage of anti-democratic legislation on January 16. However, the aggressive actions of members of extreme-right group Pravy Sektor are not acceptable and are inflaming conditions on the streets and undermining the efforts of peaceful protestors. We likewise deplore violence by unofficial groups known as “titushki.” We also condemn the targeted attacks against journalists and peaceful protestors, including detentions. The Maidan movement has been defined by a spirit of non-violence that we strongly support.

We urge the Government of Ukraine to take steps that represent a better way forward for Ukraine, including repeal of the anti-democratic legislation and beginning a national dialogue with the political opposition. The United States has already revoked visas of several people responsible for violence, and will continue to consider additional steps in response to the use of violence by any actors.