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Showing posts from May 23, 2014

The Role of Ukraine's Leading Oligarch Grows amid Crisis

Rinat Akhmetov speaks during a press conference in Kiev on March 30, 2006 after legislative elections.(SERGEI SUPINSKY/AFP/Getty Images)


Rinat Akhmetov is Ukraine's richest man and arguably the most powerful oligarch in Ukraine's eastern industrial heartland. As clashes rage between Ukrainian security forces and pro-Russian separatist fighters, Akhmetov is becoming an increasingly important player in the country's crisis, given his influential position in eastern Ukraine and his working relationship with the Russian and Ukrainian governments.

In a May 19 statement, Akhmetov called for regularly occurring peaceful rallies in opposition to the separatist groups in eastern Ukraine. Akhmetov's careful balancing of opposing forces in Kiev and Moscow will be key to any potential resolution in Ukraine, both in addressing the immediate separatist threat in the east and in determining the country's broader political course.


After separatists seized and occupied …

Thailand's Armed Forces Take Control

Royal Thai Army soldiers secure the streets of Bangkok following a military coup, May 22. (Rufus Cox/Getty Images)


The Thai military declared May 22 that it has taken control of the government for the good of the nation. The announcement followed a series of meetings between opposing political forces and mediated by the military that failed to come up with a compromise to end the political standoff that has plagued Thailand for several years. After declaring martial law on May 19, the military took on the role of mediator, but the near intractable stances of the opposing political forces made a coup all but inevitable. Coups are part of the cycle of Thai politics and in recent times have been relatively bloodless.

The military now will begin the process of establishing control over the various ministries, building an interim military-backed government to run day-to-day operations in Thailand. Recent polls showed that some 80 percent of Thais support martial law, but the military…

In China, Deadly Bomb Blasts Strike Downtown Urumqi

Chinese security personnel guarding a checkpoint along one of the highways leading into Beijing on May 20.(STR/AFP/Getty Images)


Just three weeks after a bomb explosion at the south train station in Urumqi, the capital of China's Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, left three people dead and 79 injured, a much deadlier attack has taken place in downtown Urumqi, killing at least 31 and wounding 90. At 7:50 a.m. May 22, attackers driving two off-road vehicles crashed into an outdoor market near People's Park, tossing explosives into the crowd of morning shoppers before one of the vehicles exploded, witnesses told Xinhua News Agency. One owner of a nearby shop told Xinhua that he heard four or five explosions altogether and saw "three or four people lying on the ground," while others said they heard as many as 12 blasts.

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The attack is notable for its location -- near the center of Urumqi, one of the most heavily policed cities in China -- and for i…

North and South Korea Trade Fire

A South Korean Marine watches an amphibious assault drill in March. (JUNG YEON-JE/AFP/Getty Images)


North and South Korea briefly exchanged artillery fire May 22 in waters along the disputed Northern Limit Line, or NLL, a maritime extension of the Demilitarized Zone in the Yellow Sea that North Korea considers illegitimate. According to South Korean reports, North Korean naval artillery shells fell near a South Korean patrol vessel near Yeonpyeongdo, a small island south of the NLL. South Korean ships responded with at least two shots fired into the water near a North Korean patrol boat. On May 20, South Korean ships fired warning shots at three North Korean patrol vessels that had reportedly crossed south of the NLL. On May 21, North Korea responded by issuing a statement condemning "firing at random" by the South Koreans, declaring that "all warships of the south Korean puppet navy, big and small, which recklessly maneuver in the sensitive waters of the southw…