WASHINGTON, February 18 (RIA Novosti) – The United States is “appalled” at the explosion of violence that engulfed Kiev on Tuesday, a White House spokesman said amid clashes between police and protesters in Ukraine that left at least 13 people dead.
“We are appalled by the violence that was already taking place in downtown Kiev, and reports of armed riot police amassing on the edge of Maidan,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said, referring to the city’s Independent Square.
US Vice President Joseph Biden called Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to express his “grave concern regarding the crisis” on the streets of Kiev, where clashes lasted for hours and resulted in several deaths and hundreds of injuries, the White House said in a statement.
Biden “made clear that the United States condemns violence by any side, but that the government bears special responsibility to de-escalate the situation,” the White House said.
The US vice president also “underscored the urgency of immediate dialogue with opposition leaders to address protesters’ legitimate grievances and to put forward serious proposals for political reform,” the White House statement said.
The standoff in Kiev descended into violence and destruction Tuesday, with riot police deploying rubber bullets, stun grenades and tear gas in clashes with mainly young men wearing protective armor and wielding shields.
Authorities said six policemen were shot dead, while a police spokesman said seven civilians were killed in the violence.
Geoffrey Pyatt, the US ambassador to Ukraine, told CNN in an interview Tuesday that the United States “wants to see the politics off the street, back in Ukraine’s democratic institutions.”
“We are appalled by the violence that’s unfolding. It’s been a terrible day in Ukraine’s history,” Pyatt said. “We are hoping that the government and the opposition will take immediate steps to de-escalate.”
Pyatt said on his Twitter feed that United States believes “Ukraine’s crisis can still be solved via dialogue, but those on both sides who fuel violence will open themselves to sanctions.”
The US Embassy in Kiev on Tuesday advised US citizens in Ukraine “to avoid all protests, demonstrations, and large gatherings and to remain inside in the evening,” citing the “ongoing political unrest and violent clashes between police and protesters.”
Tuesday marked the deadliest surge of violence between authorities and anti-government protesters since large-scale street demonstrations erupted in Ukraine in November after Yanukovych’s government backed away from deals to deepen political and economic cooperation with the European Union and instead opted for closer ties with Russia.