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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 24, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Ukraine Seeks Arrest of Yanukovich

Ukraine's acting government issued an arrest warrant for deposed president Viktor Yanukovich, accusing him of "mass killings" of protestors (AP). Yanukovich fled the capital Kiev on Saturday and has been reportedly seen in Crimea in southern Ukraine, home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet (WaPo). Parliament passed a series of measures this weekend, granting amnesty to protestors, freeing political prisoners, and replacing Yanukovich with acting president Oleksander Turchinov, who said the country seeks a new relationship with Russia that "takes into account Ukraine's European choice" (Reuters). Moscow said it will withhold further loans and aid to Ukraine until it has more clarity on the government in Kiev, while the United States, the European Union, and the UK said they are ready to help (Bloomberg).


"Despite what some Ukrainians suspect, Moscow is unlikely to try bringing about the breakup of Ukraine in order to annex its southern and eastern parts. That would mean civil war next door, and Russia abhors the idea. Moscow's best option at this point is to stand back and wait, while quietly favoring decentralization in Ukraine," writes Dmitri Trenin in the New York Times.

"The U.S. could and should convey clearly to Mr. Putin that it is prepared to use its influence to make certain a truly independent and territorially undivided Ukraine will pursue policies towards Russia similar to those so effectively practised by Finland: mutually respectful neighbours with wide-ranging economic relations with Russia and the EU; no participation in any military alliance viewed by Moscow as directed at itself but expanding its European connectivity," writes Zbigniew Brzezinski in the Financial Times.

"The country needs a 'political restart,' in the words of former heavyweight boxing champion and opposition leader Vitaly Klitschko. Fresher faces would be welcome, and Mr. Klitschko, a Russian speaker, has a following in the east and leads in the polls. He's inexperienced but untainted by corruption. Any new leader will have to carry out an economic overhaul that will include some short-term pain," the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial.


Pacific Rim

South Korea–U.S. Military Drills Begin

Annual military drills between South Korea and United States, which involves more than 12,500 U.S. troops, have begun and will last until April 24. North Korea is opposed to the drills and had previously threatened to cancel rare family unions if the exercises proceed (BBC).

CHINA: Beijing denounced the U.S. State Department's naming of a special coordinator for Tibetan issues, calling the move interference in China's internal affairs (Hindu).


South and Central Asia

Taliban Raid Afghan Army Base

Taliban fighters overran an Afghan National Army base in Kunar Province, near the eastern border with Pakistan, killing twenty-one soldiers in their bunks. Most of the soldiers were asleep. The attack was the worst blow to the government since 2010 (NYT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and resilience of the Taliban.

INDIA: Demand for gold in India, considered by most of the population as the best form of life savings, has led to a price gap with global markets and encouraged the increasing use of gold "couriers" (WSJ).


Middle East

Egypt’s Government Resigns Ahead of Elections

Egypt's prime minister Hazem al-Beblawi submitted his government's resignation to the interim president, a move that was seen to pave the way for army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to run in the presidential elections in April (AFP).

IRAQ: The defense ministry began a seventy-two-hour suspension of military operations in Fallujah, raising the possibility of a negotiated end to the presence of al-Qaeda-linked militants in the city (al-Jazeera).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and evolution of al-Qaeda in Iraq.



France Faces Long Stay in Central African Republic

France's parliament will vote Tuesday on extending the country's mission to the Central African Republic, which began three months ago and was expected to last just six months. Paris now expects its troops will stay in the country until elections next February (Reuters).

UGANDA: President Yoweri Museveni signed an antigay bill into law that criminalizes homosexual behavior and punishes offenders with penalties up to life imprisonment (Independent).

This CFR Backgrounder explains same-sex marriage laws in six countries.



Sochi Games End with Success for Russia

The Winter Games, which were held amid international concerns over gay rights in Russia and fears of terrorism, ended in Sochi and was widely seen as a success for the host country. The Olympic infrastructure worked, athletes refrained from making political statements, and Russia won thirty-three medals (AP).



Venezuela’s President Calls for Talks to Defuse Protests

President Nicolas Maduro called for a "national peace conference" to be held on Wednesday to end weeks of antigovernment protests that killed at least ten people. Maduro also said the protestors were trying to "justify foreign intervention in Venezuela" (AFP).

MEXICO: Mexican authorities, using U.S.-supplied wiretaps, surveillance technology, and intelligence, captured Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, one of the world's most wanted drug lords, this weekend in a Mexican beach town (WaPo).



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