Vice President Joe Biden on Monday called Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, expressing “deep concern” about the political turmoil in the European nation and warning against a violent crackdown on protesters.

“In a phone call today with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Vice President Biden expressed his deep concern about the situation in Ukraine and the growing potential for violence,” said the White House in a statement.

Biden urged the Ukrainian leader to “immediately de-escalate the situation and begin a dialogue with opposition leaders.”

“He noted that violence has no place in a democratic society and is incompatible with our strategic relationship,” the White House added.

Ukraine has been rocked by massive protests after Yanukovych backed away from efforts to strengthen ties between his country and the European Union, throwing his support instead behind a closer trade union with Russia.

Critics of his government who back closer ties with the EU want Ukraine to align with the West and are pushing Kiev to adopt political reforms.

“The Vice President reaffirmed the strong support of the United States for Ukraine’s European aspirations and welcomed President Yanukovych’s commitment to maintaining this path,” said the White House.

Reports on Monday said Yanukovych was open to talks with opposition leaders, even as police began taking steps to move against protesters.