Biden calls Ukraine leader, urges halt to violence

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WASHINGTON (AP) - Vice President Joe Biden has urged Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych (yah-noo-KOH'-vich) to defuse escalating tensions in Kiev, where protesters and riot police squared off in the biggest of three weeks of demonstrations.

Both men spoke by phone Monday. The White House said Biden underscored the need to begin talks with opposition leaders.

The protests began after Yanukovych backed away from signing an agreement to deepen ties with the 28-nation European Union.

Protesters and opposition groups want Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, to break out of Russia's influence.

The White House said Biden reaffirmed the United States' support for Ukraine's closer ties to Europe.

A White House statement quoted Biden as saying: "Violence has no place in a democratic society and is incompatible with our strategic relationship."

(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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