In late 2013, large-scale protests against the Ukrainian government were sparked by
President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to abandon plans to sign an association agreement
with the European Union and instead strike a deal with neighboring
Russia. The deal included a $15 billion bailout of the Ukrainian government (which was on the verge of
bankruptcy) and sharp cuts in natural gas prices (Ukraine and many other European countries depend on Russian gas).
The Presidents of both Ukraine and Russia downplayed the prospect of Ukraine joining the Moscow-dominated
Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Russia (seen by the US and others as an attempt to reestablish Russian
domination of the former Soviet Union), but early 2014 protests in Ukraine were large and strong enough to prompt
an offer of the post of Prime Minster to the opposition (among other concessions).
That offer by Yanukovych was promptly and roundly rejected, and the conflict continued to escalate, leading to the
downfall of Yanukovych and the setting up of a new government within a few days. Yanukovych fled to Russia, and
is wanted in Ukraine for the killing of protesters.
Meanwhile, Russia has occupied Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula (part of Russia until "gifted" to Ukraine during Soviet
rule), and a Russian-orchestrated March 2014 referendum in that territory to join the Russian Federation
reportedly passed with more than 95% of the vote...