U.S. praises Ukraine deal, calls for concrete action

U.S. praises Ukraine deal, calls for concrete action

February 21st, 2014 by Associated Press in Local - Breaking News

White House press secretary Jay Carney speaks during his daily news briefing at the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 21, 2014.

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

WASHINGTON - The White House on Friday praised an agreement between Ukraine's president and the opposition to end violence and said it should be implemented immediately.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said the deal was consistent with what Washington was advocating, but added that the U.S. will closely monitor whether there is concrete action to implement it.

President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin have discussed the agreement, which is aimed at ending the months-long standoff fueled by public anger that Ukraine was abandoning closer ties with Europe in favor of a deal with longtime ruler Russia.

The White House had been considering levying sanctions on officials in Ukraine who were responsible for stoking the violence, but Carney indicated that the U.S. would hold off while monitoring the implementation of Friday's accord.

"Our focus today is on working with our European partners as well as the government and the opposition in Ukraine to ensure the agreement's implementation," Carney said. "We are not ruling out sanctions to hold those responsible for the violence accountable, especially should there be further violence or violation of the agreement."

Friday's agreement restores a previous constitution that limits presidential powers. Ukraine's parliament also voted to give the protesters amnesty.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart, Defense Minister Pavlo Lebedev, by phone on Friday. Lebedev told Hagel that Ukraine's military won't use weapons against its people and that their deployment focused on protecting military facilities, the Pentagon said in a statement.

Hagel commended Ukraine's move to keep the military on the sidelines of the crisis, the Pentagon said. The U.S. defense chief had tried several times to reach Lebedev earlier in the week but, according to the Pentagon, those calls were not accepted.