Ukraine protests and EU sanctions
An aerial view shows the anti-government protesters camp in Independence Square in central KievReuters

The European Union has clamped a travel ban and asset freeze on Ukrainian officials who are seen as being responsible for the ongoing crisis in the country even as Washington is planning to follow suit.

The decision to impose sanctions was taken at an emergency meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels after Kiev witnessed the worst bloodshed in the ongoing crisis killing at least 70 people.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement: "In light of the deteriorating situation, the EU has decided as a matter of urgency to introduce targeted sanctions including asset freeze and visa ban against those responsible for human rights violations, violence and use of excessive force."

She added: "Member states agreed to suspend [Ukrainian] export licences on equipment which might be used for internal repression. The decision is to proceed very rapidly, in the next hours, to a visa ban and asset freeze on those who have committed the violence."

The European ministers are also trying to mediate talks between Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the opposition groups to ease the situation.

"Talks of Polish, German, French foreign ministers at Yanukovych's office still going on. The opposition leaders, the parliament's speaker, many MPs attend," Polish foreign ministry spokesperson Marcin Wojciechowski said in a Twitter post.

Meanwhile, the White House has also openly stated that it would not hesitate to impose sanctions on the Ukrainian authorities if the situation does not improve in the coming hours.

US Vice President Joe Biden "called upon President Yanukovych to immediately pull back all security forces - police, snipers, military and paramilitary units, and irregular forces," said a White House statement, adding it is "prepared to sanction those officials responsible for the violence".

Washington has already blacklisted 20 Ukrainian officials in its visa list and additional punitive measures would include the asset freeze and others.