That Ukraine's path towards something approximating to liberal democracy would be winding and difficult was always obvious. That its 40 million people have shown a lot of resilience in trying to reach that goal must, however, not be forgotten. As Kyiv finds itself on the brink of a new political crisis, with its government surviving a vote of no-confidence, and the war still grinding on in the east, it is important to recall the wider historical backdrop.
The first time that students camped out in the centre of Kyiv to protest against autocracy was in 1989 - the year the communist bloc crumbled. The 2014 Maidan popular uprising, which was triggered by a widespread desire to see ties with the European Union deepened (and not thwarted by the Kremlin) surprised many outside Ukraine - but it had deep roots. The street revolt did not just reflect disgust with Viktor Yanukovych's corrupt, autocratic Moscow-backed regime; it also carried a nation's memory of Soviet-era repressions: the state-provoked famine of the 1930s, the deportations to the Gulag, and the hounding of dissidents - some of whom, like Leonid Plyushch, were locked up in psychiatric wards. It is easy to forget, when events accelerate, as they are now doing again, the deeper reasons for Ukraine's political evolution and the motives that drive civil society there. European leaders must not lose that sense of perspective.
This is not to minimise Ukraine's current political crossroads. Tensions between the president, Petro Poroshenko, and the prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, reached new heights this week. Mr Poroshenko said it was "obvious" that there was a demand for a "complete reset of the cabinet" - and called for Mr Yatsenyuk's resignation. This followed the resignation, earlier this month, of the economy minister, Aivaras Abromavičius, who was seen as a key reformer by the west and accused the president's loyalists of systemic corruption. With his win today, Mr Yatsenyuk lives to fight another day.
Two years after the Maidan revolution, Ukraine's slow pace of reform has without doubt created public frustration. The economy has tanked and the prime minister's approval ratings have plummeted. Reformists in the government have struggled to overcome the deeply vested interests of oligarchic groups. Changes within the bureaucracy and the administration have been dismally insufficient. If the internal crisis continues, Ukraine's backers will find themselves with new headaches. The International Monetary Fund has warned that a $40bn bailout might be put at risk.
Meanwhile, the conflict in the east between government forces and Russia-backed separatists continues unabated - and has worsened again in recent weeks. The war has caused more than 9,000 deaths in two years. On Monday, three Ukrainian soldiers were killed in clashes. International monitors say the fighting has recently reached levels not seen in months, with numerous ceasefire violations, including the use of heavy weaponry which should have been pulled back from the frontline.
A deepening political crisis in Ukraine could threaten the Minsk ceasefire agreements, whose full implementation (which was initially planned for December 2015) had already been pushed back to an uncertain date this year. While each side in the conflict accuses the other of not fulfilling its commitments, political events in Kyiv could offer Russia a new pretext to refuse handing over the control of the border to the central government. The OSCE has recently spoken of "circumstantial evidence" that Russia is rearming the separatists.
For all this, developments in Ukraine point to the need for more, not less, western and European focus. Both international financial assistance and diplomatic efforts should be kept on track if Ukraine is to be able to stabilise. With all the other problems facing Europe, that may be a hard sell. But it is in Europe's interest to engage, not turn away.