White House Leaving Ukraine Crisis Up to Biden

Biden spoke with Yanukovych again on Jan. 23 to state that "violence by any side is not acceptable" and underscore "that only the government of Ukraine can ensure a peaceful end to the crisis and further bloodshed would have consequences for Ukraine’s relationship with the United States."

The vice president rang up the Ukrainian president four days later to "express U.S. support for on-going negotiations between the government and the opposition to end the current standoff and bring about a peaceful, political solution to the crisis." Yanukovych called Biden on Jan. 28 with an update. "He strongly encouraged President Yanukovych to continue to work with the opposition to find compromises critical to a peaceful solution," the White House said in its readout.

And today, when all hell broke loose, it was again up to Biden.

"In a call today with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, Vice President Biden urged President 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," the White House said. "This includes taking immediate steps such as pulling back riot police, releasing detained protesters, and establishing accountability for those responsible for beatings and attacks on journalists and protesters."

"Vice President Biden emphasized 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."

White House press secretary Jay Carney didn't talk about Ukraine until asked at the end of today's daily briefing.

"I can tell you we are appalled by the violence that was already taking place in downtown Kiev and reports of armed riot police massing on the edge of Maidan. We continue to condemn street violence and excessive use of force by either side. Force will not resolve the crisis," Carney said. "To restore, rather, peace and stability, we urge President Yanukovych to deescalate immediately the situation and end the confrontation at Maidan. We also urge him to re-start a dialogue with opposition leaders today to develop a consensus way forward for Ukraine."

The crisis promises to rip further at the administration's already tattered "reset" with Russia, as Moscow claimed this month that Washington is “crudely interfering” with the former Soviet state.

When asked today whether Obama or Biden had reached out to Yanukovych, Carney again noted who's in charge of the crisis.

"I don't have an update on the fairly regular conversations that the vice president, in particular, has been having with President Yanukovych and others in Ukraine," he said.