Vladimir Putin sees the events in Kiev as "an attempt to carry out a coup", according to his spokesman, and puts the blame for them firmly at the door of the protesters. Russia also said that the west shared responsibility for the bloodshed.
"We cannot characterise what is happening in Ukraine as anything except a violent attempt to seize power," said foreign minister Sergei Lavrov. "Many western countries, who have tried to interfere in events and played games with insurgents, are also to blame. The west has solidly, repeatedly and shamefully avoided criticism of the actions of extremists, including Nazi elements."
It has been clear for some time that Moscow thinks Viktor Yanukovych needs to crack down on what it sees as a band of extremists hijacking its capital. Nevertheless, few expected the crackdown to come during the Winter Olympics and distract global attention from the culmination of Putin's long-term project to put on a show for the world on the Black Sea.
Russia sparked the protests by promising to release another $2bn of the $15bn loan that Putin offered Yanukovych after Kiev pulled out of signing an association pact with the EU. The Kremlin had frozen the payments pending the appointment of a new cabinet, but announced on Monday that the next tranche of money would be released this week, giving a boost to Yanukovych. Yesterday, a Ukrainian government source told Reuters that the money had been delayed "for technical reasons" but that it was expected to arrive on Friday.
The possible consequences of events in Kiev include a tightening of the political climate inside Russia, for fear of similar sentiment spreading east. Shaun Walker Sochi