But this is about much more than just a trade deal. Symbolically, Yanukovych's decision was seen as a turn away from Europe and toward Moscow, which rewarded Ukraine with a "stimulus" worth billions of dollars and a promise of cheaper gas exports. Moscow had subjugated or outright ruled Ukraine for generations, so you can see why this could hit a nerve.
But this is about more than just geopolitics. Yanukovych and his government, since taking power in 2010, have mismanaged the economy and have been increasingly seen as corrupt. In 2004, there had been mass protests against Yanukovych when he won the presidential election under widespread suspicions of fraud; those protests, which succeeded in blocking him from office, were called the "Orange Revolution" and considered a big deal at the time. But now he's back.
The protests had actually been dying down until Jan. 16, when Yanukovych signed an "anti-protest law" that also deeply restricts free speech, the media (especially from criticizing the government), driving in a group of more than five cars, even wearing a helmet. Protests kicked back up with a vengeance, not just in Kiev but in a number of regional capitals, outright seizing government administration buildings in some.
3. I heard this was about Ukrainians wanting ties with Europe and their government selling out to Moscow. Is it?
That's sort of true lots of Ukrainians want their country to be "European" rather than linked with Russia, and Yanukovych is sure buddying up to Moscow but it's also sort of wrong. Yes, about half of Ukrainians say they want the European Union deal. But another third say they'd prefer integrating with the Russian-dominated Eurasian Customs Union. So it's more split than you'd think.
Here's the thing you have to understand: Ukraine is divided. Deeply, deeply divided by language, by history and by politics. One-third of the country speaks Russian as its native language, and in practice even more use it day-to-day. The Russian-speakers mostly live in one half of the country; the Ukrainian-speakers live in another. You can see that clear-as-day divide in the accompanying photo illustration.