The Struggle Over Ukraine's Future In 4 Photos

On Tuesday Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a gilded room of the Kremlin.

UkraineREUTERS/Alexander NemenovRussia’s President Vladimir Putin (R) meets with his Ukrainian counterpart Viktor Yanukovich at the Kremlin in Moscow, December 17, 2013.

Later in the day, Russia gave Ukraine with a bailout package worth at least $US20 billion, which is one of the richest ever offered by Russia to another country.

“Ukraine’s trade with Russia makes it impossible for us to act in any other way,” Yanukovych said of the deal that pulls the two countries closer. “There is no alternative to this.”

The Kremlin is actively trying to persuade Ukraine, by far the most populous former Soviet republic after Russia, from signing a Association Agreement and trade pact with the EU.

Russia leads a customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan, which is “essentially a free-trade zone across a large section of the former Soviet Union,” according to the New York Times.

“Ukraine is our strategic partner and ally in every sense of the word,” Putin said.

Ukraine putinREUTERS/Sergei KarpukhinUkrainian President Viktor Yanukovich (L) gives a wink to his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin during a signing ceremony after a meeting of the Russian-Ukrainian Interstate Commission at the Kremlin in Moscow, December 17, 2013.

After news of the deal, Vice video journalist Tim Pool reported, the protesters who want Ukraine to integrate with the European Union as opposed to Russia built “another wall.”

“I think the people will eventually have it their way. We will sign up to Europe. That’s why I’m here,” Snezhana, a factory worker who spent the night on Kiev’s snowy main square, told Reuters.

The walls come in several different styles. Here’s one:

UkraineREUTERS/Vasily FedosenkoMen remove waste near a barricade set up by pro-European integration demonstrators in central Kiev December 17, 2013.

The protests have been going strong since Yanukovych turned away from the EU deal on November 21. As Ukraine’s leader is getting cozier with the Kremlin, the people are getting more restless with their government.

“Yanukovych’s bargaining position is much, much stronger now,” Rojansky says. “At least for the core of the demonstrators, it comes either to a forcible confrontation with the authorities, if the authorities choose to go that route, or a pretty long and drawn-out political siege.” Matthew Rojansky, an expert on U.S. relations with former Soviet Union states at the Wilson Center, told TIME.

“It’s hard to imagine it could end up in anything else but a change of power,” Irina Litvinianko, a businesswoman, told Reuters.

UkraineREUTERS/Alexander DemianchukPro-European integration protestors stand guard at a barricade in central Kiev, December 17, 2013. Ukraine’s president could secure loans from Russia on Tuesday when he meets Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin – money that could help fend off economic crisis as anti-government protests continue in Kiev.

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