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Saturday 30 August 2014

Step by step... how the powder keg was primed

Published 16/03/2014 | 02:30

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Hours after a truce is announced, violence between protesters and riot police resumes

Nov 21, 2013: President Viktor Yanukovich's government announces it's abandoning an agreement to strengthen ties with the European Union and instead seeking closer co-operation with Moscow. Protesters take to the streets.

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Nov 30: Images of protesters bloodied by police truncheons spread quickly and galvanise public support for the demonstrations.

Dec 1: A protest attracts around 300,000 people on Kiev's Independence Square, known as the Maidan, the largest since the 2004 Orange Revolution. Activists seize Kiev City Hall.

Dec 17: Russian President Vladimir Putin announces Moscow will buy $15bn (€10.7bn) worth of Ukrainian government bonds and cut the price Ukraine pays for Russian natural gas.

Jan 22, 2014: Three protesters die during a confrontation between police and demonstrators manning barricades.

Jan 28: In concessions to the opposition, the prime minister resigns and parliament repeals harsh anti-protest laws that set off the violence.

Feb 16: Opposition activists end their occupation of Kiev City Hall in exchange for the release of all 234 jailed protesters.

Feb 18: Protesters attack police lines and set fires outside parliament after it stalls on a constitutional reform to limit presidential powers. Riot police respond to the violence by trying to push protesters off Independence Square. At least 26 people die and hundreds are injured.

Feb 20: Hours after a truce is announced, violence between protesters and riot police resumes, pictured above. More than 80 people, mainly protesters, are killed by gunshots.

Feb 21: Under a European-mediated plan, protest leaders and Yanukovich agree to form a new government and hold an early election. Parliament slashes his powers and votes to free his rival, Yulia Tymoshenko, from prison. Yanukovych flees Kiev after protesters take control.

Feb 22: Parliament votes to remove Yanukovich and hold new elections. Tymoshenko is freed and addresses tens of thousands on the Maidan.

Feb 23: Ukraine's parliament assigns presidential powers to its new speaker, Oleksandr Turchynov, an ally of Tymoshenko. The new authorities ask the West for loans to avoid an imminent default. Pro-Russia protesters start rallying against the new authorities in Crimea, where Russia has a major naval base.

Feb 24: Ukraine's interim government draws up a warrant for Yanukovych's arrest. Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev derides the new leaders in Kiev as "Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks".

Feb 26: Leaders of Ukraine's protest movement propose legislator Arseniy Yatsenyuk as prime minister. In Moscow, Putin orders major military exercises just across the border.

Feb 27: Masked gunmen seize regional parliament and government buildings in Crimea. Ukraine's government pledges to prevent a national break-up with strong backing from the West. Yanukovich is granted refuge in Russia.

Feb 28: Ukraine says Russian troops have taken up positions around strategic locations on the Crimean Peninsula. Ukraine's parliament adopts a resolution demanding that Russia halt steps it says are aimed against Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. Turchynov says he has put armed forces on full readiness because of the threat of "potential aggression".

March 1: Troops under apparent Russian command take over Crimea without firing a shot. The Kiev government and its western supporters are powerless to react. President Barack Obama calls Putin to demand the troops' withdrawal.

March 2: Ukraine appeals for international help, fearing a wider Russian invasion. Supporters on both sides take to the streets of Ukrainian cities and of Moscow. The Group of Seven suspends preparations for June's G8 summit in Russia.

March 3: Ukraine says there are up to 16,000 Russian troops in Crimea. Russia says it has approved troop deployment at the request of Yanukovich. The main Russian stock index falls 12 per cent; Russia's central bank raises its main interest rate 1.5 percentage points.

March 6: Crimea's parliament declares the region wants to join Russia and will let voters decide in a March 16 referendum.

March 11: The EU proposes a package of trade liberalisation measures to support Ukraine's economy, abolishing most import tariffs on the country's products – a step expected to save the country's exporters €500m annually.

March 12: Obama meets with Yatsenyuk at the White House in a show of support for the new Ukrainian government and declares the US would "completely reject" the Crimea referendum.

March 14: A last-ditch diplomatic effort before the referendum fails in London, where Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met with US counterpart John Kerry amid threats of sanctions against Russia if it annexes Crimea.

Sunday Independent

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