Beware Russia's power play in Ukraine

But every once in a while, Putin goes too far. He went too far in 2004, collaborating with Ukrainian former communists to rig a presidential election. Blatant fraud inspired Ukraine’s famous “Orange Revolution” — and a temporary swing in Ukraine’s political orientation to the West.

Now Putin is trying again — and again he is meeting massive resistance in the Ukrainian streets. Over the past years, the European Union negotiated a trade pact with Ukraine. The pact would enrich ordinary Ukrainians, today the third poorest people in Europe, after the Kosovars and Moldovans. The pact would lessen Ukraine’s economic dependence on Russia — and prepare the way for Ukraine’s own eventual membership in the EU.

Under extreme Russian pressure, the Ukrainian president — the very same man whose election fraud triggered the Orange Revolution nine years ago — has repudiated his own treaty, and his country’s best hopes.

Tens of thousands of protesters have filled the streets and squares of the capital, Kiev, two weekends in a row. Police have suppressed the protests brutally, injuring many people. The regime’s controlled courts have banned any further public demonstrations until January.