Protesters in Ukraine ramped up activities Monday as they blocked entrances to government offices, blocked streets, and have called for a nationwide strike.  The actions follow a weekend of protests, triggered by the Ukranian president’s refusal to sign an association agreement with the European Union.

From NBC News:

Thousands of Ukrainian protesters on Monday blocked entrances to the government building and called for the ouster of the prime minister and his Cabinet, as anger at the president’s decision to ditch a deal for closer ties with the European Union gripped other parts of the country and threatened his rule.

The besieging of the building follows a huge rally in the capital by hundreds of thousands Ukrainians on Sunday, which was mostly peaceful, until a group of protesters tried to storm President Viktor Yanukovych’s office. After hours of scuffles, police chased protesters away with tears gas and truncheons.

It was a violent police action against protesters early on Saturday that has galvanized the latest round of protests whose aim is to bring down the president and his government.

Many of the people of Ukraine want to see more integration and long term economic benefit potential through the EU association agreement, while Russia seeks to keep more influence over Ukraine.  The Associated Press reports that EU leaders have accused Russia of bullying Ukraine into walking away from the deal.

Recent surveys have shown that 45 percent of Ukrainians want to see closer integration with the EU, while one third or less prefer closer ties to Russia, according to The Independent.

Some meanwhile see the issues in an even broader light and have been calling for a peaceful “revolution.”

From The Independent:

Authorities had already cleared peaceful pro-European protesters from Kiev’s central Independence Square, also known as Maidan, in the early hours of Saturday morning. Riot police sealed off Maidan with metal barricades, but hastily abandoned them on Sunday in the face of overwhelming odds. As protesters reclaimed the square, others stormed the mayor’s office. Chants of “revolution” resounded across a sea of yellow and blue Ukrainian and EU flags on the square. The crowd was by far the largest since the protests began more than a week ago. Many of the demonstrators had travelled to Kiev from western Ukraine, where pro-EU sentiment is particularly strong.

Speaking at the demonstration from the roof of a bus, opposition leaders called for a nationwide strike to begin today in a bid to advance a “peaceful revolution”.

“Our plan is clear: It’s not a demonstration, it’s not a reaction. It’s a revolution,” said Yuri Lutsenko, one of the leaders of Ukraine’s 2004 Orange Revolution, former Minister of Internal Affairs and political prisoner.

Vitalii Klitschko, heavyweight boxing champion of the world and candidate for Ukraine’s 2015 Presidential elections, told the crowd: “We want a normal Ukraine without corruption, with a police force that protects rather than beats people, and good salaries. If the authorities are not ready to provide us with rules, we will change the authorities.”

Opposition leaders are seeking to exploit the cracks that have appeared in the Yanukovych regime following the resignation of his chief of staff and leading party spokesperson, hoping that ruling party MPs will defect to the opposition. “If we keep this up for one week, we will have a majority in parliament, and call for new elections,” said Mr Lutsenko. “Here we are trying to fix the shortcomings from 2004” he said.

The Washington Post has put together a helpful readers’ guide to the protests in Ukraine, including some background on why all of this should be important to the US.

Shades of the Cold War! Hillary Clinton put it this way: A year ago, when she was still secretary of state, Clinton said Russia was trying to “re-Sovietize” the area once occupied by the 15 republics that made up the Soviet Union. Russian President Vladimir Putin has already formed a Customs Union with two of the countries, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Armenia has promised to join. Now, he has his eye on more desirable Ukraine. At home, Putin enjoys casting the United States as public enemy No. 1, mostly to make himself look like the protector of the nation. That would be harder to pull off if Ukraine rejected his advances and took up with Europe, an old U.S. friend.

Below are a few additional articles – some simple summaries, others with background on the protests and some of the broader context of the situation.

This update from the Associated Press came through my newsfeed as I was drafting this post: Facing Protests, Ukraine Leader Again Courts EU

Related Twitter hashtags to follow:  #Kiev, #Ukraine, #Euromaidan, #EuroMaydan

(Featured image credit: CNN/Reuters video)