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Challenges and Violence in Ukraine

Police officers give a medical aid after grenade blast during a clash between protesters and police after a vote to give greater powers to the east, outside the Parliament, Kiev, Ukraine, Monday, Aug. 31, 2015.

The Ukrainian government and people continue to struggle to move their country toward peace and prosperity.

The Ukrainian government and people continue to struggle to move their country toward peace and prosperity.

Despite the challenges that have arisen, in particular from Russian aggression, including Russia’s occupation of Crimea in 2014 and the ongoing violence perpetrated by combined Russian-separatist forces in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has worked to implement political and economic reforms and sought to live up to its obligations under the Minsk agreements.

Recently Vice President Joe Biden spoke with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko by telephone. The White House noted in a statement that Mr. Biden congratulated President Poroshenko on reaching agreement with Ukraine’s commercial creditors on debt restructuring, and welcomed the news of an agreement among several pro-reform political parties to run a common slate of candidates in Ukraine’s local elections.

Vice President Biden also emphasized the United States’ strong support for constitutional amendments proposed by President Poroshenko and Ukraine’s Constitutional Commission that will allow for meaningful decentralization of power in keeping with the relevant provisions of the Minsk agreements, while preserving Ukraine’s unitary state structure.

Unfortunately, on August 31, after the Parliament in Kyiv approved a draft of a constitutional amendment giving more power to the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, violence broke out in the capital with nationalist protestors objecting to the amendment. Three national guardsmen were killed and more than 140 were injured when a grenade exploded in the crowd.

State Department Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner welcomed the vote by the Ukrainian parliament in support of decentralization, calling it “an important step towards good governance for all Ukrainians, which also helps fulfill another key piece of the Minsk agreements.”

But Mr. Toner deplored the violence that followed the vote. “We call on all Ukrainians, no matter their affiliation or organization, to respect law and order. We fully respect Ukrainians' right to engage in peaceful protests, but in a democratic society, grievances must be addressed peacefully and lawfully.”

Ukraine has been valiantly standing up to Russian aggression while, at the same time, seeking to implement important reforms that will improve the lives of its citizens. The United States will stand by Ukraine as it continues its path forward on reform and urges all Ukrainians to participate peacefully and lawfully in support of a democratic Ukraine.