Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector) activists on guard in front of the Verkhovna Rada (Supreme Council of Ukraine). Protests against the government of President Viktor Yanukovych were sparked on 21 November 2013 by the Ukrainian government's decision to suspend preparations for the signing of an association agreement with the European Union that would have increased trade with the EU. Some believe that the U-turn came about as a result of pressure from President Putin of Russia who wants Ukraine to join a customs union with itself, Kazakhstan and Belarus. Russia offered 15 billion dollars of soft loans and reduced price gas to Ukraine at the same time as discussions with the EU were taking place. After weeks of protests and a number of deaths, Prime Minister Mykola Azarov and the entire cabinet resigned. On 18 February, after Yanukovych's party scuppered a move to change the constitution to reduce the powers of the president, renewed fighting between protesters and police broke out and had cost the lives of around 80 people by Friday 21st February. By 22 February Yanukovych had fled Kiev. In the days following the Ukrainian parliament decided to strip him of the presidency.