Biden calls Ukraine president to express grave concern over Kiev violence

WASHINGTON Tue Feb 18, 2014 6:16pm EST

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Vice President Joe Biden called Ukraine's president, Viktor Yanukovich, on Tuesday to express grave U.S. concern at rising violence in Kiev and to urge him to pull back government forces and exercise maximum restraint.

On a day Ukrainian riot police charged protesters occupying a central Kiev square, Biden made clear to Yanukovich that the United States condemns violence by any side, "but that the government bears special responsibility to de-escalate the situation," a White House statement said.

"The vice president further underscored the urgency of immediate dialogue with opposition leaders to address protesters' legitimate grievances and to put forward serious proposals for political reform," the statement said.

It said the United States is committed to supporting efforts to promote a peaceful resolution to the crisis in a way that "reflects the will and aspirations of the Ukrainian people."

(Reporting By Steve Holland; Editing by Sandra Maler)

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