As of Saturday morning, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has fled the capital, a day after signing an accord with opposition leaders. In this article, originally published Friday evening and since updated, Fred Kaplan examines the importance of Obama's and Putin's next moves.
What's happening in Ukraine is a very big deal, for reasons that are obvious and inspiring—but also for reasons that are knotty and frightening.
It started last fall, with protests in Kiev's Independence Square, which swelled and turned violent after the government cracked down. A familiar pattern, but things have taken a twist in just the past 24 hours. President Viktor Yanukovych waved the white flag and, alongside the three main protest leaders, signed a deal that meets nearly all their demands, including the restoration of the 2004 constitution (which he had repealed to give himself more power) and the holding of elections at the end of the year.
Almost at once, the Ukrainian parliament assumed its restored powers and passed laws firing the interior minister, granting amnesty to protesters, and freeing Yulia Tymoshenko, a reform politician who, after just barely losing to Yanukovych in the 2010 election, was sentenced to prison for seven years on dubious corruption charges.