One year ago today, thousands of Ukrainian protesters flooded the streets of Kiev and occupied the city's Independence Square, kicking off months of Euromaidan rallies that would would eventually see a leader ousted and a country divided. Initially, the demonstrators were expressing discontent at President Viktor Yanukovych's decision to pull out of a deal that would bring Ukraine closer to joining the European Union (EU).
After an initial brutal police crackdown, the protests grew in size as Euromaidan became more about toppling the government and putting an end to corruption than joining the EU. The police tried and failed to clear the tent city that sprung up in the Independence Square — also known as the Maidan —and the occupied city hall that has been dubbed the "Revolution HQ." Protesters remained in the streets for three weeks, despite the below freezing temperatures.
Kiev's Euromaidan protesters began 2014 the same way they ended 2013: by rioting in the streets in an attempt to bring down their government. Key victories were won swiftly with Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and his cabinet resigning at the end of January. The demonstrators also forced the annulment of a new anti-protest law that had also been the one of the factors behind their unrest.
The protesters weren't content with this, however, and remained out in the streets, demanding the head of President Viktor Yanukovych and the staging of fresh elections. What began as a protest against the Ukrainian government's close ties with Russian leader Vladimir Putin became a focus for wider discontent. Yanukovych, however, was still not willing to relinquish his power. With social unrest spreading across the country, its first post-Soviet President, Leonid Kravchuk, went as far as to warn that Ukraine was "on the brink of civil war."
On February 22, news broke that Yanukovych had fled Kiev, notably leaving behind a mansion that the public quickly discovered. Yanukovych's highly controversial private estate of Mezyhrhrya, located just outside the city, is half the size of Monaco and costs hundreds of millions of dollars to build, much of it coming from embezzlement and corruption. In the days following his departure, thousands of curious Ukrainians entered the grounds to take a look at his excessive decorating tastes, flooding the internet with photos and videos in what felt like a kleptocrat's version of MTV's Cribs.
With Yanukovych gone amid deadly protests, VICE News returned to Kiev's Independence Square to document the Euromaidan movement's continued struggle for the fate of the nation. In addition to the smoldering avenues littered with sniper fire, and protesters tending to their dead and wounded, our crew chronicled the toppling of Viktor Yanukovych. Here's a look at how the revolution unfolded.