US Vice-President Joe Biden urged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday to pursue dialogue and compromise to end the country’s crisis as he called for the “immediate” pulling back of riot police.
In a phone call, Biden “emphasised that the only viable path to peace and stability in Ukraine is through continued dialogue and genuine compromise to form a new government that can earn the confidence of the Ukrainian people,” the White House said in a statement.
Ukraine has been rocked by protests since November after Yanukovych rejected an association agreement with the European Union in favour of closer ties with Moscow, and the turmoil has now become an all-out movement to oust him.
The pro-EU protest leaders are demanding constitutional amendments to cut presidential powers and unconditional freedom for arrested activists.
Biden urged Yanukovych to “take advantage of every opportunity, including offers of international support, to reduce tensions and build trust with the people of Ukraine in order to find a political solution to the crisis.”
That, he said, included taking “immediate steps” such as pulling back riot police, letting detained protesters go and “establishing accountability for those responsible for beatings and attacks on journalists and protesters”.
Ukrainian lawmakers failed on Tuesday to agree on curbing the president’s powers at a stormy debate that took place as the EU’s foreign policy chief flew in to bolster foreign pressure to end the two-month crisis.
Catherine Ashton was to meet with Yanukovych on Wednesday, who a senior lawmaker said was considering calling early elections to resolve the stand-off.
Lithuania, meanwhile, confirmed signs of torture on a Ukrainian activist it is treating and urged an independent investigation into the crime.
At least two protesters and two policemen have been killed in clashes and the opposition says activists are being beaten by pro-government militias as part of a “secret repression”.