Thursday, the European Union decided to sanction those responsible for the outbreak of violence in Ukraine. Possible sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes, as well as a ban on the export of items that could be used to repress protesters in Ukraine. The E.U. did not want to make the sanctions harsh enough that Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych would be unwilling to continue talking with the E.U. in an attempt to resolve the crisis without further violence.
It has yet to be decided which members of the Ukrainian government will be sanctioned. The priority is finding a way to end the bloodshed, but the E.U. wants to send Kiev officials a message. One day earlier, the United States had imposed similar sanctions on 20 individuals that were determined to be most responsible for the violence. The 20 do not include the president of Ukraine.
Russia has loudly criticized American and E.U. policy in Ukraine. Russia blames the conflict on protesters and extremists, not on the Ukrainian authorities. Russia's foreign minister compared the new sanctions to blackmail aimed at President Yanukovych.
It seems like Russia may have ulterior motives for opposing these sanctions, such as its financial ties to Ukraine. Russia has promised Ukraine billions of dollars worth of loans, and probably needs the Ukrainian authorities to stay in control in order to have these loans be at all secure. Russia's position on the opposition (denounced as extremists) seems like a generalization of the beliefs of a few to the entire opposition. There are undoubtedly some extremists, but the majority of the opposition is not to blame for the conflict. I place much more blame on the Ukrainian officials who have ordered crackdowns; on those who the E.U. and the United States have decided to sanction.