The protests began after Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych's decision in December to back out of a trade deal involving the European Union in favor of Russia, which also set the stage for Ukraine's future and whether it will ally with Russian or European nations. Regardless of occasional use of force from Yanukovych aimed at the protestors, they remained relatively peaceful until recently in Kiev. You can read more about the background of the protests and Yanukovych's decision here.
Basically, the protesters wish to become closer to Europe and more distant to Russia; the country is home to many people who feel close to Russia, along with many who look more to Europe. Protesters on the latter side also worry of corruption within their government, while the former have been backing their president and his decision.
However, just today, protesters advanced against police lines, causing government snipers to fire upon them, marking today as the deadliest day of the protests so far, with a reported seventy people dead, along with over five hundred injured. These numbers brought the casualties up to one hundred and one, and that's just this week. If anything, these losses have only called protesters into more action to continue to push for political change in the country.
Yanukovych's resignation has the potential to bring an end to these protests, but he does not plan on standing down any time soon. Unfortunately, this isn't something that we can just close our eyes and pretend to ignore in the hopes that suddenly everything will calm down, everyone will make peace, and we'll all join hands and sing Kumbaya together. If only. No, perhaps my pessimism is showing, but I don't expect things to calm for quite a while.
From ABC News:
"The price of freedom is too high. But Ukrainians are paying it," said Viktor Danilyuk, a 30-year-old protester. "We have no choice. The government isn't hearing us."
Read the full article here. I also recommend watching the video at the top of the article (and my eternal respect for any and all reporters involved in this).