Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych has been impeached by more than two thirds of the Ukrainian parliament, capping off a series of events that did away with the controversial president in a matter of days. The impeachment, however, was soon followed up by an even greater indictment of the president’s actions towards the outraged Ukrainian populace, as an arrest warrant charging him with the mass murder of civilians was issued today for his immediate detention. The whereabouts of the former president remain unknown, though he had initially fled to Kharkiv, a historically pro-Russian city in southeastern Ukraine, and subsequently to the Ukrainian Crimea. It is suspected that Yanukovkych may already be in Russia, and, even in the unlikely event that he’s not, is expected to shortly.
The Russian government has openly condemned the removal of Yanukovych from power, stating that it will not acknowledge the Ukrainian opposition and insisting that the rapid change in government places Russian citizens living within Ukraine in imminent danger. The change in leadership is sure to sour already tense relations between Russia and the European Union, as leading European policymakers have quickly moved in to solidify western support for the opposition government.
Like any rapid change in government, however, the removal of Yanukovych raises a number of questions, the majority of which have to do with future political stability. Arsen Avakov, a former member of Ukraine’s parliament, has been appointed interim president until elections can be convened in May. Yulia Tymoshenko, a leader of the 2004 Orange Revolution and a former candidate for president, is expected to run again, though support for her candidacy is not guaranteed. In virtue of being detained for the last two years, Tymoshenko has naturally been absent from the Maidan protests of the last three months. Her reputation and freedom, thus, have been widely supported by Ukrainians, though her inability to agree with other opposition leaders and questionable financial success may make it difficult for to become Ukraine’s next president.
- The Times of Central Asia highlights the steady stream of investments being made into Central Asian economies by traditional regional hegemons China and Russia. Though the investments have been described as “modest” and “steady,” the report reveals that competition within the Central Asian economies can nearly be typified as a “New Great Game.” The main areas of competition have undoubtedly been in gas and oil and minerals with, both giants outwardly exercising their influence in Kazakhstan. The Russian gas and oil giant Gazprom has assumed control of the bankrupt Kazakh oil sector, and Rosneft, a state-owned Russian oil enterprise, recently acquired Kyrgyzstan’s Bishkek Oil Company. The Chinese have bolstered relations with the two countries by becoming some of their leading customers, and have developed infrastructure throughout the region, including a “$350m investment deal to build a railway tunnel linking the Uzbek Fergana Valley to the country’s main rail network.”
- Iran has made economic headway under new President Hassan Rohani, Reuters reports. Outside of traditional gas and oil exports, the Gulf nation has seen food and other commodity exports rise as comprehensive sanctions set to be eased. The nation still faces a number of restrictions on their banking and financial sector, but the 7.7% drop in non-oil exports could quickly be reversed as an influx of Iranian goods lands in new markets such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq and Pakistan. Domestic measures, such as the removal of a high tax on dairy, indicate a concerted effort to promote greater exports of milk and other dairy products.
- In a sign of renewed cooperation, Tajik President Emomali Rahmon met with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Hoagland, as the two sides deliberated the future of bilateral cooperation throughout the region. Tajikistan shares a border spanning nearly 840 miles (1,344 km) with Afghanistan, making it a key ally in fights against extremism and drug trafficking, and a potential partner in regional economic efforts, such as the CASA-1000 regional development project, to which Tajikistan is party.
- Continued violence in Afghanistan led to the deaths of 21 Afghan soldiers at a border checkpoint in the Ghazi Abad district, making it the deadliest single incident to have occurred in the course of one day. The attack continues a disconcerting trend of violence aimed at destabilizing the country at the same time that foreign troops begin to leave the country. In addition, the incident sheds light on the complicated relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan. In spite of recent bilateral declarations of support for cooperation in economic and trade matters, the Afghan government has accused Pakistan of providing sanctuary to Taliban fighters and promoting instability within the country.