The deadly protests that have broken out in the streets of Kiev are no longer just a Ukrainian issue. They might soon be an American one, too.
As is the case in several conflicts across the world, Ukraine is just the next proxy battle between the United States and Russia.
To understand the role the U.S. plays here, it's first important to understand both sides of the ongoing conflict. For the last three months, protesters have defiantly stood against a Ukrainian government that refuses to strengthen ties with the European Union. Meanwhile, opposition leaders have capitalized on a growing pro-West sentiment in the western part of Ukraine that has paralyzed the country and brought a violent showdown that has gained the attention of the world.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych represents the mostly Russian-speaking eastern and southern parts of the country, and has been cozy with the Kremlin on many economic and energy issues. Protests began in November after Yanukovych backed away from a trade deal with the European Union. Instead, the country got a $15 billion bailout from Russia. Ukraine, a former Soviet republic, historically has been pro-Kremlin.
Now, protests demanding a new election seem to be escalating toward a civil war that threatens to break the country in two. On Tuesday, clashes between riot police and demonstrators left 25 people dead and hundreds more injured.