The Ukrainian government took a step toward granting more autonomy (al-Jazeera) to its pro-Russian eastern regions on Wednesday, saying it would like to eliminate the practice of presidential appointment of local governors and move toward a system of local elections. The move comes as tens of thousands of Russian troops remain massed along its border, and a day after Moscow raised energy prices for Kiev. Ukraine's ousted president, Viktor Yanukovich, conceded in his first interview since fleeing Russia that he made a mistake (AP) when he invited Russian troops into Crimea, and vowed to negotiate with Vladimir Putin for the return of the Black Sea peninsula. "Crimea is a tragedy, a major tragedy," he was quoted telling the Associated Press. Meanwhile, a government inquiry revealed that Ukrainian special police were responsible (BBC) for the killing of antigovernment protestors in Kiev in February.
"Only recently have supporters and participants of the Maidan rallies begun to ask each other about the background of Right Sector and its leaders: By what right do they claim the leading role in the revolution?" writes Anna Nemtsova for Foreign Policy.
"The greatest provocation to Mr Putin is to fail to stand up to him, and the least costly time to resist him is now. Emboldened, Mr Putin could test NATO's resolve by changing the facts on the ground (grabbing a slice of Russian-speaking Latvia, say, or creating a corridor through Lithuania to Kaliningrad) and daring the alliance to risk nuclear war," writes The Economist.
"Now Mr. Putin has put the question of a breakup on the national agenda. And it can't easily be taken off. Fractious nationalism—not invasion—is Ukraine's real vulnerability," writes Stephen Sestanovich for the New York Times.
White House Planning Japan Trip
U.S. president Barack Obama will likely travel to Tokyo as a state guest later this month (JapanTimes), making him the first U.S. president to be accorded such treatment since Bill Clinton in 1996. The trip, expected between April 23 and 25, will likely touch upon security alliance issues, as well as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
This CFR Backgrounder traces the history and current state of the U.S.-Japan Security Alliance.
SOUTH KOREA: Seoul signed an agreement with Beijing on joint efforts (Yonhap) in tackling air pollution, which has been increasingly clouding Northeast Asia.
South and Central Asia
Musharraf Survives Bomb Attack
Pakistan's former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, escaped a bomb (BBC) targeting his convoy en route from a hospital in Rawalpindi, where he was being treated for chest pain. Musharraf was charged earlier this week with five counts of treason over alleged constitutional violations during his time in power.
Secretary of State John Kerry warned Israeli and Palestinian leaders (NYT) on Thursday, saying they must "lead" to salvage chances at peace. The remark was Kerry's first public comment after the Palestinian leadership submitted applications to join fifteen UN conventions, despite opposition from the United States and Israel.
CFR's Robert Danin analyzes Washington's strategy in the peace talks in this new blog post.
SYRIA: The number of refugees who have fled Syria and registered in Lebanon has exceeded 1 million (AFP), according to the United Nations.
CFR's Micah Zenko discusses Syria's total fatalities in this blog post.
House Proposes Cutting Aid to Rwanda
The House Foreign Affairs Committee is proposing cuts in American aid (FP) to Rwanda as part of a broader overhaul of Washington's relationship with Kigali. The standing of the Rwandan government deteriorated in recent months after a string of assassination attempts on Rwandan dissidents.
LIBYA: The former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, Mike Morell, offered a lengthy defense (WSJ) of his actions regarding the 2012 attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
Hungarian PM Likely to Win Reelection
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who leads the center-right Fidesz party, looks likely to win (Reuters) a second term in parliamentary elections on Sunday, according to a new poll. Results show that the far-right Jobbik party is also on track to a strong showing.
Report Details U.S. Government Creation of ‘Cuban Twitter’
An 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit Chile's northern coast Tuesday, killing at least five. President Michelle Bachelet, who returned to the presidency three weeks ago, declared a state of emergency (AP) in the region, and the government extended tsunami warnings for northernmost Chile.
UNITED STATES: Seven million U.S. citizens enrolled in private health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act before its Monday deadline. President Obama declared victory in the government's aggressive push (NYT) for enrollment.