Throughout Ukraine's independence, the old colonial master, Russia, has sought to draw it back under its command.
Moscow's approach to the presidential election was to ensure that whoever became president would firmly bind Ukraine to Russia. To that end, they exploited historic faultlines between the central and western regions, where the Ukrainian language dominates, and the eastern regions, where millions of ethnic Russians live.
Vladimir Putin visited Ukraine before both rounds of the election to endorse the government candidate Viktor Yanukovych, who campaigned for Ukraine's membership of a new Moscow-led bloc called the "Single Economic Zone".
But, after accusations of ballot-rigging, opposition supporters have occupied the capital and other cities.
According to government sources, Russia had offered to crush demonstrators by force and to back it against any international backlash. However, surprised at the scale of support for Mr Yushchenko, Moscow seems to have launched a hastily-prepared "Plan B", which has raised the spectre of separatism.
(Via Le Sabot)