Update 3:53 a.m. EST: The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, said that Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych has expressed willingness to sign a deal for EU integration, according to the BBC. Ashton’s statement, during a press briefing in Brussels, follows her visit to Kiev earlier this week. She added that Yanukovych's concern was about Ukraine’s “short term economic issues,” BBC reported.  

The U.S. is considering a range of options, including potential sanctions, to tackle the political crisis in Ukraine, the State Department said, a day after Washington issued an unusually stern criticism of the Ukrainian government's crackdown on protesters in the capital, Kiev.

The protesters, who want the Ukrainian government to integrate with the European Union rather than reconnecting with Russia as favored by the country's president, Viktor Yanukovych, were forcefully removed with police action from Independence Square, the main opposition site, in Kiev on Tuesday night.

In a telephone conversation with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who warned Ukraine against deploying armed forces to suppress protests, his Ukrainian counterpart Pavlo Lebedyev said the government’s position is not to use the military, the Pentagon’s Assistant Press Secretary Carl Woog said in a statement.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. has communicated to Russia that Ukraine’s European future is not a “zero-sum game” for the U.S.: “All policy options, including sanctions, are on the table in our view. But obviously, that still is being evaluated,” Psaki said in a press briefing in Washington.

“We understand that they (Russia) have put options on the table. The EU has put their own options on the table. But we continue to believe that the preference of the people of Ukraine should be what the government listens to,” Psaki said.

Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland has been holding talks with Russian and Ukrainian authorities over the past few days, as part of a visit to the region to diffuse tensions, after Yanukovych said he is facing pressure from the Russian government against Ukraine’s EU association.

“What has been happening in security terms here is absolutely impermissible in a European state, in a democratic state,” Nuland said in a statement.

“But we also made clear that we believe there is a way out for Ukraine, that it is still possible to save Ukraine's European future and that is what we want to see the President lead. But that is going to require immediate security steps and getting back into a conversation with Europe and with the International Monetary Fund, and bringing justice and dignity to the people of Ukraine.”