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Two days before he fled Ukraine's capital, President Viktor Yanukovych huddled on the phone for more than an hour with Vice President Joe Biden, his primary conduit with the U.S. government throughout the political crisis consuming the former Soviet republic.
The window for a resolution to the crisis was closing quickly — and may already have closed, Biden warned Yanukovych, a senior administration official familiar with the conversation told the Associated Press. Yanukovych was initially defiant, the official said, and accused the protesters in the streets of Kiev of being terrorists. Though Yanukovych became less resistant to Biden's appeals as the call continued, the vice president hung up the phone uncertain of the embattled leader's next move.
Biden, who had built a working relationship with Yanukovych since becoming vice president, was at the forefront of the delicate diplomatic maneuvering for the Obama administration. He spoke to Yanukovych on the phone nine times during the three-month political crisis, an unusual level of contact that underscored the heightened U.S. concern about stability in Ukraine, a strategically located nation that shares a border with Russia.
The vice president also met throughout the crisis with Ukrainian religious leaders and Ukrainian-American groups, according to the administration official, who was not authorized to discuss the vice president's involvement by name and insisted on anonymity.