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US reportedly preparing financial sanctions against Ukraine leaders

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December 19, 2013: Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych speaks during a press conference in Kiev. (AP Photo/Mykhailo Markiv, Pool)

The Obama administration is reportedly readying financial sanctions that could be levied against Ukrainian government officials and protest leaders if violence between President Viktor Yanukovych's government and pro-European Union protesters continues to escalate. 

Reuters reported that congressional aides have discussed possible sanctions with White House officials. Congressional aides told Reuters that final details have not been worked out, but any sanctions could be put in place quickly in case of ongoing violence. The U.S. revoked the visas of some Ukrainian officials early this month in response to violence that saw six people killed across the Eastern European country. 

Yanukovych earlier this week accepted the resignation of his Prime Minister and persuaded Ukraine's parliament to overturn anti-protest laws and offer a conditional amnesty to demonstrators. However, protesters and members of the opposition parties have demanded Yanukovych's resignation since November, when he shelved a proposed economic and political deal with Brussels. 

A statement on Ukraine's presidential website Thursday said Yanukovych would be taking sick leave due to an acute respiratory illness and high fever. There was no indication of how long he might be on leave or whether he would be able to do any work.

President Barack Obama devoted one sentence to the Ukraine crisis in Tuesday night's State of the Union address, when he said that the United States "[stands] for the principle that all people have the right to express themselves freely and peacefully, and to have a say in their country's future."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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