Three months after they first began in Kiev's Independence Square, Ukraine's protests reignited Tuesday, when opposition lawmakers failed to push through constitutional changes that would have limited the president's powers. The ensuing 24-plus hours have been by far the bloodiest since the crisis began, with at least 25 people, including several policemen, killed in increasingly violent clashes between protesters and security forces.
In case you're just tuning in, what follows are the most important events since security forces first moved in against the crowds. The main theme you may notice here is lots of escalation, in action and rhetoric, by forces within Ukraine and by the foreign powers backing the two "sides" in the crisis. The more they escalate, the tougher it will be for either to back down or reach a compromise.
(1) 'Ring of Fire': Protesters set up giant barricades around their protest camp, in and around Independence Square. They deconstructed their own tents and other supplies to burn as fuel in a "ring of fire" meant to keep out security forces. Demonstrators threw rocks and molotov cocktails.
(2) Security forces push in: Police appear to have cordoned off the area around the square to prevent more people from moving in. They've made several pushes into the protest camp; it's not clear what weapons they've used in addition to firehoses, but medical workers said that a number of protesters had died from gunshot wounds. Electricity to the square was cut off, but the stage that protesters have used as a focal point retained power through a generator.
(3) Police may have been burned alive: Estimates on the numbers of security forces killed vary, as do the explanations. The government says they were killed from gunshot wounds, though witnesses say they appear to have been burned alive in their armored vehicles.
(4) Opposition and Yanukovych meet, fruitlessly: Opposition leaders had to wait several hours to see Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych for negotiations, which did not produce any agreements.
(5) Government cites 'terrorism': The Ukrainian government announced that it would launch "anti-terrorist" operations. It's not clear precisely what this means, but it's interpreted as an escalation of rhetoric meant to imply that some protesters are terrorists, and potentially to justify an even stronger government action.
(6) Protesters in western city seize government buildings: In Lviv, a regional capital in the country's heavily pro-European west, anti-government protesters seized a number of government administration buildings. These reportedly include a local army barracks. Video purports to show local troops "surrendering" to the protests, although they may be local conscripts who share the protesters' views.
(7) Crimea regional government calls for escalation: In the southern region of Crimea, the only region of Ukraine where ethnic Russians outnumber ethnic Ukrainians, government officials said the situation had become a civil war and called for Yanukovych to escalate accordingly. Crimea's population and government are unusually pro-Moscow and thus more likely to back the Yanukovych government.
(8) Russia ups its rhetoric: The foreign ministry of Russia, which supports Yanukovych, denounced the protests as an attempted coup, "criminal activities" and a "brown revolution," an allusion to the rise of Nazi Germany. It said Russia would use "all our influence to restore peace and calm."
(9) Europe considers sanctions: European leaders tried to contact Yanukovych but were not answered. Poland and France called for targeted sanctions against Ukraine for the government's use of force. The European Union says it will meet to consider a response, though the EU is not exactly known for its decisiveness on such matters.
(10) Biden calls: U.S. Vice President Biden called Yanukovych to urge him to "pull back government forces and to exercise maximum restraint," according to a White House statement. Biden also "underscored the urgency of immediate dialogue with opposition leaders to address protesters’ legitimate grievances and to put forward serious proposals for political reform."