— AFP Photo (@AFPphoto) January 23, 2014
But the trigger for the protests was President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision not to sign a major partnership deal with the EU, despite years of negotiations aimed at integrating Ukraine with the 28-nation bloc.
Thousands of pro-EU Ukrainians poured on to the streets of the capital, urging President Yanukovych to cancel his U-turn and go ahead with the EU deal after all. He refused, and the protests continued.
When riot police first took action on 30 November, the images of them breaking up a student protest and leaving dozens of people injured only fuelled anger with the president and boosted the crowds in Independence Square.
The authorities sought to defuse the anger through measures such as the suspension of the mayor of Kiev and release of detainees.
On 17 December, Russia and Ukraine announced a major deal under which Russia would buy $15bn-worth (£9.2bn; 10.9bn euros) of Ukrainian government bonds and slash the price of Russian gas sold to Ukraine.
The deal appeared to take the wind out of the sails of the protest movement but when a pro-opposition journalist, Tetyana Chornovol, was beaten up by unknown assailants on 25 December, there was an outcry.