Protests in Ukraine leave more than 25 dead, possible sanctions against Ukraine to follow

Posted at 9:34 AM, Feb 19, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-19 09:48:33-05

(CNN) — Demonstrators pack public squares. Flames shoot into the air. Tear gas sends crowds scrambling. Clashes between protesters and police have killed more than 25 people. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will raise the possibility of sanctions against the Ukrainian government in remarks that he will make in Paris later Wednesday, a senior administration official told CNN.

The images are striking, and things are heating up quickly. What’s happening on the ground?

What are protesters’ demands?

Who’s a better economic ally, Europe or Russia? That’s the key issue at the heart of Ukraine’s protests. Demonstrators want the government to forge closer ties with Europe and turn away from Russia.

But the dispute is also about power. Many in the opposition have called for the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych and the ordering of new elections. And both on the streets and in parliament, they’ve also pushed to alter the government’s overall power structure, feeling that too much of it rests with Yanukovych and not enough with parliament.

Who’s protesting?

An opposition coalition has been leading the charge against Yanukovych and his allies.

When did demonstrations start?

In November, thousands spilled onto the streets after Yanukovych did a U-turn over a trade pact with the European Union that had been years in the making — with Yanukovych favoring closer relations with Russia instead.

What’s the latest?

Long-simmering tensions exploded anew in Ukraine as clashes between police and anti-government protesters left more than 25 people dead and the capital’s central square on fire into early Wednesday.