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A Humiliated Putin Plans His Next Move in Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (left) watch the Russia vs Slovakia ice hockey match at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Feb. 16 in Sochi
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev (left) watch the Russia vs Slovakia ice hockey match at the 2014 Winter Olympics on Feb. 16 in SochiPhotograph by Sasha Mordovets/Getty Images

Vladimir Putin is pondering his position after pro-Western protesters swept to power in Ukraine. The sudden overthrow of Putin’s ally, Viktor Yanukovych, has left the Kremlin leader at a loss, struggling to maintain his country’s influence in the Russian-speaking eastern and southern parts of Ukraine.

In Kharkiv in the east, the second-largest city in Ukraine and a scientific and industrial powerhouse in the Soviet era, a few dozen local residents were standing guard in front of a statue of Vladimir Lenin. Jubilant activists have been toppling monuments to the founder of the Soviet state in other Ukrainian cities. With police obeying orders from the authorities in Kiev, and the Yanukovych-appointed local governor locked out of the regional administration, pro-Russian forces are on the defensive. In Donetsk, an industrial region, local authorities have kept a low profile, and the mayor of Dnipropetrovsk has defected from the former ruling Party of Regions.