Ongoing violence in Independence Square, or Maidan, in Kiev, Ukraine, has claimed the lives of more than 50 Ukrainian protestors and seen hundreds more injured. The rapid escalation in aggression impetuously put an end to a short-lived truce brokered between the Ukrainian government and opposition party leaders. Though the principal catalyzing factor remains unknown, both sides have been quick to denounce each other for instigating the violence. The conflict has grown increasingly bloody over the last two days, as Ukrainian protestors armed with stones and improvised Molotov cocktails have crossed swords with riot police armed with assault rifles, stun grenades and tear gas, many of which have been filmed shooting at protestors from point-blank range.
The violent confrontation between protestors in favor of a stronger pact with the West and weaker ties with Russia and pro-government forces marks one the bloodiest incidents in the history of modern Ukraine. As a direct result of the fatalities, the European Union convened a meeting with all 28 of its foreign ministers in order to devise a plan of actions towards incumbent President Yanukovych’s administration. Asset-seizing sanctions have been quickly imposed and travel bans on a number of Ukrainian government officials have also been instituted. The announcement of sanctions comes in tandem with the Obama Administration’s announcement of visa bans on 20 Ukrainian officials and stern rhetoric directed towards Yanukovych that hint at the imposition of further sanctions.
As tensions arise and political postures become even more ingrained, protests in Ukraine have morphed into a possible East-West conflict, with both sides professing their open support for the sides they champion. The possibility of civil war in Ukraine is now a real possibility as anti-Russian sentiments, historically prevalent throughout western Ukraine, have reached their zenith, while in eastern Ukraine, where the Russian-speaking populace and the seat of government reside, support for Yanukovych has remained strong.
- Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah survived a Taliban ambush on his motorcade while traveling from a campaign event in Nangarhar province towards Kabul. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid has come forward to take credit for the assault, which he also claims took the lives of three of Abdullah’s security detail, a claim that the presidential candidate has denied. As a result of the attack, Abdullah has levied the blame on the Afghan security apparatus, which he has described as “neglecting in providing security for the candidates.” Abdullah is considered a strong candidate in looming presidential elections scheduled for April of this year.
- Al Jazeera profiles Kazakhstan’s troubling history of pollution. Former Soviet Industrial hub cities such as Shymkent, in southern Kazakhstan, have been targeted anew by Western mining giants as their appetite for Kazakh minerals grows. The most egregious producer of noxious fumes high in lead, cadmium, antimony and arsenic is a Soviet-era lead smelter that, that has contributed to soil concentrations of lead that sit at more than sixty times the legal limit, and levels of cadmium that are more than forty times the legal limit. The Blacksmith Institute produced the troubling discovery that young people are the most susceptible to the hazardous environment, revealing that more than 40,000 preschoolers have been placed at risk due to the proximity of local preschools to the lead smelter.
- The Asian Development Bank has allotted $20 million to Kyrgyzstan, with the goal of bolstering local water supply management infrastructure. The funds come with a variety of stipulations, including better systems of accountability, a more structured checks and balanced system, and reporting requirements devised in order to ensure that the funds are used properly. The ADB is not the first to champion such a system, but hopes that with the most recent effort that previous pitfalls related to “system errors and corruption practices” will be overcome.
- Eurasia Net breaks down an annual Quality of Living Survey carried out by Mercer that names many Central Asian cities as among the worst to live in for foreigners venturing abroad. The survey uses factors such as political stability, law enforcement effectiveness, censorship, pollution and health care, amongst a myriad of other factors, to arrive at its conclusion. The report highlights political instability and a lack of infrastructure in cities such as Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Tashkent, Uzbekistan, as ongoing sources of concern for foreigners attracted to the Asian continent. Megalomania and excessive spending on government pet projects in Turkmenistan have also contributed to what was described as falling levels of trust in regional governments to provide for bother their own citizenry and recent émigrés.