Timeline: Protests and political crisis in Ukraine

KIEV (Reuters) - Here is a timeline of Ukraine's political crisis which has brought tens of thousands of people onto the streets of Kiev over President Viktor Yanukovich's policy U-turn away from the European Union towards Russia. * Nov 21: Kiev suddenly announces suspension of trade and association talks with the EU after years of careful negotiations and opts for reviving economic ties with Soviet-era overlord, Moscow. Several hundred Ukrainians gather on the capital's central Independence Square to protest. * Nov 22: Jailed opposition leader and a sworn Yanukovich foe, Yulia Tymoshenko, urges Ukrainians to take to the streets over the switch away from the EU. In Moscow President Vladimir Putin accuses Brussels of blackmailing Ukraine. * Nov 24: Some 100,000 people rally in Kiev against spurning the EU, the biggest protest in Ukraine in almost a decade. * Nov 25: Ukrainian police resort to force for the first time since the protests erupted, fire tear gas at demonstrators. Brussels says the deal with Ukraine remains on the table, voices "strong disapproval" over what it says is Moscow's unacceptable pressure on Kiev. * Nov 29: At the EU summit in the Lithuanian capital Vilnius, Yanukovich fails to sign the association agreement. * Nov 30: Late at night, riot police enter in force to break up the Kiev protest. Yanukovich says he is "deeply outraged" by violence on both sides. The use of force against the crowd becomes a tipping point for many Ukrainians. The protest, which started as a pro-Europe rally, begins to develop into an all-out protest against Yanukovich and his government. * Dec 1: Some 350,000 people protest in Kiev during a rally marred by clashes with police. The crowds reclaim Independence Square and turn it into a protest tent city. Opposition leaders call on Yanukovich to resign. * Dec 2: Ukraine's central bank intervenes to prop up the hryvnia national currency for the first time since the start of protests. Protesters block government buildings. * Dec 3: Yanukovich goes to China, signs deals which he says will be bring $8 billion of investment. At home, his cabinet survives a no-confidence vote in parliament.[ID:nL5N0JI1MT] U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tells Ukrainian leaders to listen to the people. * Dec 4: Central bank intervenes for the second time. Senior EU officials and ministers start visiting the protest square. Prime Minister Mykola Azarov tells protesters they will be punished if they break law. Moscow criticizes demonstrators and tells the West not to meddle in Ukraine. * Dec 6: Yanukovich holds previously unannounced talks in Sochi with Putin on "strategic partnership". * Dec 8: Some 800,000 people rally in Kiev. A statue of the Soviet revolutionary Vladimir Lenin is toppled. * Dec 11: Riot police enter the protest camp early in the morning, clash with demonstrators but later withdraw. The White House condemns the violence and U.S. lawmakers warn of possible sanctions. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland becomes the most senior U.S. official to visit the square. * Dec 13: Yanukovich's first face-to-face talks with opposition bring no breakthrough in crisis. * Dec 14: Tens of thousands of Ukrainians protest as Yanukovich party loyalists stages rival rally. * Dec 15: EU says suspends talks with Ukraine on the pact. Some 200,000 people rally in Kiev. * Dec 17: Yanukovich and Putin hold talks in Moscow, their second meeting since the protests began. Opposition calls for another mass rally in the evening in Kiev. Putin throws Ukraine an economic lifeline, agreeing to buy $15 billion of Ukrainian debt and to reduce the price of Russian gas supplies to Ukraine by about a third. (Compiled by Gabriela Baczynska and Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Richard Balmforth and Alistair Lyon)