U.S. President Barack Obama warned on Wednesday that “there will be consequences” if Ukraine’s military interferes to crush opposition protests.
Obama said the government in Kiev should make sure that the military doesn’t step into a situation that civilians should resolve, the Associated Press reported.
He said the United States holds Ukraine’s government primarily responsible to ensure it is dealing with peaceful protesters appropriately.
The Pentagon also warned Ukraine to keep its armed forces away from swelling anti-government protests.
“The Department of Defense is encouraged that the Ukrainian armed forces have not been brought into this crisis. We urge them to remain on the sidelines,” said Pentagon spokesman Colonel Steve Warren, according to Reuters.
“Participation would have consequences in our defense relationship.”
Warren declined to detail those consequences but noted that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel made a similar warning in his phone call with Ukrainian Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedyev in December.
Meanwhile, NATO’s top military commander earlier appealed to Ukraine’s leaders on Wednesday to avoid using military force against their people and called for dialogue with the country’s new military leadership.
In Twitter messages, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, asked that “responsible leaders avoid the use of military force against the people of Ukraine.”
“I am calling upon the new military leadership in Ukraine to open a dialogue with us to bring this situation to a peaceful resolution,” Breedlove said.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich earlier appointed a new head of the armed forces general staff after street clashes between protesters and police in which at least 26 people have
been killed since Tuesday.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ukraine’s defense ministry said the armed forces might take part in a countrywide anti-terrorist operation organized by the state security service.
It has previously said that troops could only be used domestically if a state of emergency were declared.