WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says the use of force against Ukrainian protesters is completely unacceptable.

Spokesman Josh Earnest says the U.S. was appalled by recent clashes in the capital of Kiev. He called on President Viktor Yanukovych (yah-noo-KOH'-vich) to respect his people's right to protest and assemble.

Security forces clashed with protesters on Wednesday as they began tearing down opposition barricades and tents set up in the center of Kiev. The protests began last month after Yanukovych backed away from a pact that would have deepened the former Soviet republic's economic ties with the European Union.

The White House spokesman says political oppression isn't the way to respond to the Ukrainian people's "legitimate grievances" and that it's past time for Yanukovych to listen to them.