Ukraine has always been two countries. The current leader Yanukovych - who was pushed out of office during the Orange Revolution - and is now back in power. Yulia Tymoshenko came to power during the Orange Revolution and was subsequently jailed by Yanukovych.
The map above shows the division of Ukranian leadership and its intensity (the darker the more intensity). The blue regions are loyal to Russia and are supporters of Yanukovych. The red regions are loyal to Europe and are supporters of the jailed Tymoshenko. The small white dot is Kiev - the nation's capital. Because Kiev sits within Tymoshenko territory; that's where all the rioting is coming from.
This is not just a political crisis but an economic one. Ukraine was clobbered in the 2008 financial crisis and has never recovered.
Ukraine is fast running out of money. At some point in the near future the standards of living will drastically deteriate. Yanukovych knows this and he is determined to postpone the day of reckoning. Thus he needs an economic infusion; and being a member of the blue region he is looking to Mother Russia. The red region people also know they are going broke and are determined to seek economic assistance from Europe.
What's the fuss about where the money comes from? Its less political than cultural. The blue east sees themselves, from what they used to be: the first founding member of the Soviet Union along with Russia. The red west sees themselves, from what they want to be: a Euro member surrounded to the west by old Soviet Union countries that have escaped Russia's orbit and are now Euro members.
Except for Belarus, the red west borders the Euro countries of Poland, Slovakia, and Hungary.
Perhaps another Orange Revolution will fix the problem, but I doubt it. It far more likely that the country will either peacefully split into two, or descend into chaos and civil war.
January 23, 2014