THE WHITE HOUSE —
As the death toll mounts in Ukraine, the United States has expressed "grave concern" about violence and urged President Viktor Yanukovych to "de-escalate" the situation and hold immediate talks with the opposition. Latest reports say at least 18 people have been killed, including police and civilians in Kyiv.
The White House says Vice President Joe Biden delivered the strong words to President Yanukovych in a telephone conversation on a day of violence in the Ukrainian capital.
Biden expressed "grave concern" and urged President Yanukovych to pull back government forces and exercise maximum restraint.
While the United States condemns violence by any side, Biden said Ukraine's government bears special responsibility to de-escalate the tensions.
According to a White House statement, Biden underscored "the urgency of immediate dialogue with opposition leaders to address protesters’ legitimate grievances and to put forward serious proposals for political reform."
Reports late Tuesday detailed a mounting death and injury toll from the violence, including fatalities among police and civilians, as security forces and protesters clashed in Kyiv.
It's the worst violence since protesters began calling for President Yanukovych's ouster after he moved Ukraine closer to Russia and backed away from a trade deal with the European Union.
Earlier, White House press secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. is appalled by the violence and reports of armed riot police massing on the edge of Independence Square, also known as Maidan, the main protester camp.
"Force will not resolve the crisis. To restore peace and stability we urge President Yanukovych to de-escalate immediately the situation and end the confrontation at Maidan. We also urge him to restart a dialogue with opposition leaders today to develop a consensus way forward for Ukraine," said Carney.
Tuesday's White House statement on Vice President Biden's conversation with the Ukrainian president said the United States is committed to supporting efforts to promote a peaceful resolution to the crisis that reflects the will and aspirations of the Ukrainian people.
The U.S. embassy in Kyiv issued an update
on its website about the latest violence, advising all U.S. citizens to "maintain a low profile and to remain indoors."
The embassy advised U.S. citizens to avoid all protests, demonstrations and large gatherings, saying the situation was "unpredictable and could change quickly."