The White House says Vice President Joe Biden has called Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to urge an immediate de-escalation in the increasingly violent standoff between protesters and government forces in the capital, Kyiv.
A White House statement Thursday said Biden also warned the embattled Ukrainian leader that "further bloodshed will have consequences for Ukraine's relationship with the United States." At least three opposition protesters were killed Wednesday, as anti-government protests in the capital entered their third month.
The U.S. warning came as regional news outlets reported protesters storming government offices in at least three locations in western Ukraine. In the city of Lviv, protesters surrounded the regional governor and forced him to write a letter of resignation. Russian television showed widespread overnight scenes of burning barricades in Kyiv and said at least 300 people were injured in the city.
Opposition leaders, including boxer-turned-politician Vitaly Klitschko, are demanding the resignation of the government of Prime Minister Mykola Azarov, early presidential elections and the lifting of recently-imposed restrictions on protests.
Prime Minister Azarov, attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, called the demand for early presidential elections "unrealistic" and accused the anti-government protesters of attempting a coup.
On Wednesday, protesters set a 24-hour deadline for Mr. Yanukovych to agree to their demands.
That deadline was extended Thursday evening, as opposition leaders continued talks with Mr. Yanukovych and restive crowds waited for them to emerge from the emergency meeting.
Earlier Thursday, the president called for an emergency session of parliament to end the crisis, which was spawned by the president's decision in November to back out of a trade agreement with the European Union, in favor of closer ties with Russia.