Kiev's Russian Roulette

After deposing a despised President, Ukrainians are watching another powerful leader: the one in the Kremlin

Yuri Kozyrev / NOOR for TIME

The cast of characters competing to decide Ukraine's future could come from a fairy tale, or maybe an operetta: the blond, braided beauty freed from prison by people power; the heavyweight boxing champion turned protest leader; the thuggish President, now ousted, whose hidden estate included a personal menagerie of ostriches and peacocks; the billionaire confectionery mogul, known as the "chocolate king," who cast his lot with the revolution; the Baptist pastor who had the reins of power pressed, temporarily, into his hands. The protesters themselves range from starry-eyed young idealists wielding modern instruments of dissent, like cell-phone cameras and Twitter accounts, to radical thugs brandishing older implements, like hunting rifles and Molotov cocktails.

But waiting in the wings is perhaps the most important character of all, the man who could decide where the story goes next: Vladimir Putin.

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