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From flames to fiery opposition, protests rock Ukraine, Venezuela, Thailand

By Catherine E. Shoichet. Jethro Mullen and Greg Botelho, CNN
updated 6:59 PM EST, Thu February 20, 2014
Dramatic scenes are unfolding during chaotic anti-government protests in Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela this week. Here is an on-the-ground look at the protests in these countries. Dramatic scenes are unfolding during chaotic anti-government protests in Thailand, Ukraine and Venezuela this week. Here is an on-the-ground look at the protests in these countries.
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Three protests, three countries
Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine
Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela
Venezuela
Thailand
Thailand
Thailand
Thailand
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • In Ukraine, demonstrators demand closer ties with Europe, want President's ouster
  • In Venezuela, protesters blame the government for shortages, security problems
  • In Thailand, protesters call for the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra

(CNN) -- Demonstrators pack public squares. Flames shoot into the air. Tear gas sends crowds scrambling. Bodies are carried from the streets.

Dramatic scenes are unfolding during anti-government protests in three disparate countries this week, on three different continents.

The images are striking, and things are heating up quickly. What's happening on the ground?

Here's a cheat-sheet guide to the protests in Ukraine, Venezuela and Thailand:

Clashes in Kiev, Bangkok and Caracas
Protesters in Kiev, Ukraine, clash with police in Independence Square on Wednesday, February 19. Thousands of anti-government demonstrators have packed the square since November, when President Viktor Yanukovych reversed a decision on a trade deal with the European Union and instead turned toward Russia. Protesters in Kiev, Ukraine, clash with police in Independence Square on Wednesday, February 19. Thousands of anti-government demonstrators have packed the square since November, when President Viktor Yanukovych reversed a decision on a trade deal with the European Union and instead turned toward Russia.
Ukraine protests turn deadly
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Photos: Ukraine protests turn deadly Photos: Ukraine protests turn deadly

UKRAINE

What are the protesters' demands?

Who's a better economic ally, Europe or Russia? That's the key issue at the heart of Ukraine's protests. Demonstrators want the government to forge closer ties with Europe and turn away from Russia.

But the dispute is also about power. Many in the opposition have called for the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych and the ordering of new elections. And both on the streets and in parliament, they've also pushed to alter the government's overall power structure, feeling that too much of it rests with Yanukovych and not enough with parliament.

Who's protesting?

An opposition coalition has been leading the charge against Yanukovych and his allies.

On CNN iReport, protesters and onlookers have shared more than 100 photos and videos of clashes between demonstrators and police. The nighttime images are especially striking -- figures are silhouetted against large bonfires set alight in the streets.

When did the demonstrations start?

In November, thousands spilled onto the streets after Yanukovych did a U-turn over a trade pact with the European Union that had been years in the making -- with Yanukovych favoring closer relations with Russia instead.

What's the latest?

Long-simmering tensions exploded anew in Ukraine on Tuesday as clashes between police and anti-government protesters left more than 25 people dead and the capital's central square on fire.

A shaky truce agreed to late Wednesday disintegrated by the next morning, as gunfire erupted again in the square. At least 100 people have died and 500 have been injured since Thursday morning, the head of the protesters' medical service told CNN.

The Ukrainian government has not released an updated figure, but the Interior Ministry said earlier that one police officer was among the dead.

Foreign ministers from Germany, France and Poland met with Yanukovych on Thursday and are to meet with opposition leaders too. European foreign ministers convened an emergency meeting in Brussels, Belgium, where they are considering sanctions against Ukraine.

A member of the Bolivarian National Police clashes with protestors during a demonstration against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Saturday, May 10. Clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces have left more than 40 people dead and about 800 injured since February, according to officials. A member of the Bolivarian National Police clashes with protestors during a demonstration against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Saturday, May 10. Clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces have left more than 40 people dead and about 800 injured since February, according to officials.
Protests in Venezuela
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Photos: Protests in Venezuela Photos: Protests in Venezuela

VENEZUELA

What are the protesters' demands?

Demonstrators are demanding better security, an end to goods shortages and protected freedom of speech.

They blame Venezuela's government, led by President Nicolas Maduro, for those problems. Maduro and other officials blame the opposition for the country's security and economic problems.

Who's protesting?

Many demonstrators across the country are students. Prominent opposition politicians have also led protests and joined marches.

Since February 13, more than 1,100 images have been uploaded to iReport, CNN's user-generated platform. Many of the videos and photos are gruesome and depict violent scenes between demonstrators and police.

When did the demonstrations start?

Nationwide student protests started this month. On February 12, the demonstrations drew global attention after three people were killed.

What's the latest?

As throngs of supporters chanted their support, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in to authorities Tuesday.

Lopez remained in a military prison Thursday as the government pressed terrorism and murder charges against him, his wife said. Lopez has denied the charges, which are connected with violence during the protests.

Maduro, meanwhile, has called members of the opposition fascists and compared them to an infection that needs to be cured. Officials have also accused the United States of plotting to destabilize the government.

Hospital workers evacuate an injured villager after an attack near an anti-government rally in Khao Saming in Thailand's Trat province on Sunday, February 23. A 5-year-old girl was killed and more than 30 others wounded when attackers sprayed bullets on an anti-government rally in eastern Thailand, police said. Hospital workers evacuate an injured villager after an attack near an anti-government rally in Khao Saming in Thailand's Trat province on Sunday, February 23. A 5-year-old girl was killed and more than 30 others wounded when attackers sprayed bullets on an anti-government rally in eastern Thailand, police said.
Political turmoil in Thailand
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Photos: Political turmoil in Thailand Photos: Political turmoil in Thailand

THAILAND

What are the protesters' demands?

Protesters in Bangkok have been calling for months for the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who they allege is a puppet of her billionaire brother, the deposed, exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Who's protesting?

Opposition to Thaksin and Yingluck is strongest among the urban elites and middle class. That's why the demonstrations have been concentrated in Bangkok. The protesters want to replace Yingluck's government with an unelected "people's council" to see through electoral and political changes.

Thailand residents and visitors have shared dozens of stories of unrest on CNN iReport over the past month. The latest approved photos show demonstrators sleeping in the streets in Bangkok as a form of peaceful protest.

When did the demonstrations start?

Protests began in November after Yingluck's government tried to pass an amnesty bill that would have paved the way for her brother's return to the political fray.

What's the latest?

Deadly violence erupted in the heart of Bangkok on Tuesday as anti-government protesters clashed with police, and the country's anti-corruption commission filed charges against the Prime Minister.

CNN's Kocha Olarn, Antonia Mortensen and Christina Zdanowicz contributed to this report.

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