Ukraine

Neil Buckley

With pro-Russian separatists refusing to leave captured buildings in eastern Ukraine on Friday, it is already clear that Thursday’s Geneva agreement has done little to reduce tensions on the ground – or the threat of a Russian invasion.

That the US, EU, Russia and Ukraine managed to agree on any document and concrete steps at all in Geneva was positive and unexpected. But some of those steps are already proving difficult to implement and provide no guarantee the situation in eastern Ukraine could not escalate further.

Most importantly, there was no commitment by Russia to pull back the tens of thousands of troops it has massed on Ukraine’s border, which Washington and Brussels have both been pressing for.

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• Putin is proving his skills as Russia’s great propagandist, with his use of Soviet-era symbolism alarming those fearful for the country’s democracy.

• The Ukraine stand-off offers Beijing a broader role on the global stage.

• The FT’s series on the Fragile Middle continues, with a look at how India‘s petty entrepreneurs face an uncertain future.

• About to take over a crisis-ridden company with a demoralised workforce? Look no further the Vatican under Pope Francis for a case-study in how it should be done.

• As forests of empty new housing towers fill the horizon in Chinese cities, yet more state sanctioned construction would amount to yin zhen zhi ke – “drinking poison to quench one’s thirst”.

Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former banker accused of fraud and one of the Kazakh president’s main political opponents, says the UK is being manipulated by a kleptocratic dictator after London decided to revoke his asylum status. Read more

  • “When a man becomes a high official, even his chickens and dogs go to heaven”, but a Chinese corruption investigation means the route for Zhou Yongkang, his chickens and his dogs might well lead somewhere else.
  • Hollande’s drubbing is not a blank cheque for France’s mainstream right
  • Yulia Tymoshenko, Ukraine’s former premier and now a presidential candidate, urges the west to bolster the country’s military defences and impose “immensely strong” economic sanctions on Moscow.
  • Meanwhile a visit to Donetsk shows how private donations are helping Ukraine’s underfunded army with everything from food to funds to create a ‘Maginot line’ to halt Russia.
  • The Middle East Institute tracks the history of terrorism in Egypt’s Sinai with an interactive graphic.

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By Gideon Rachman
Any western leader negotiating over the fate of smaller countries in central or eastern Europe does so in the shadow of two bitter historical experiences: the Munich agreement of 1938 and the Yalta agreement of 1945. At Munich, the British and the French agreed to Adolf Hitler’s demands for the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia – without the participation of the Czech government, which was not represented at the talks. At Yalta, the British and the Americans made a deal with Josef Stalin that, de facto, accepted Soviet domination over postwar Poland and other countries under Russian occupation – again, without the participation of those concerned.

♦ Thousands of young Muslims are being radicalised through social networks and propelled towards violence in Syria.

Latvia‘s ‘second class’ Russian residents are arguing for better rights, making many locals nervous amid the Crimea crisis.

Ukraine‘s ‘Kamikaze’ economy minister has one of the world’s toughest public administration jobs as he battles to deliver on unrealistic expectations.

♦ The rise of a US oligarchy amid widening inequality is threatening democracy, with both parties up for rent to wealthy lobbyists.

♦ ECB arch hawk Jens Weidmann often finds himself in a minority of one. But the appeal of being the person who is convinced everyone else is wrong seems to have waned. Read more

Gideon Rachman

What is it about the last week of May and elections? I already have the elections to the European Parliament marked in my diary. They are scheduled to take place in 28 EU nations between May 22 and May 25, and the European Parliament has modestly billed them as the “second biggest democratic exercise in the world”. The biggest, obviously, is the Indian elections – the results of which will have been declared just a week earlier. The Indian and European elections were scheduled some time ago. But we now also have the Ukrainian presidential election - an event that has taken on global significance – scheduled to take place on May 25. Meanwhile, Egypt has just announced that it too will hold a presidential election on May 26-27. Read more

Every armed conflict has its femme fatale, the woman who tantalises men on the home front, or taunts them from behind enemy lines.

In World War Two, think of Betty Grable, the leggy film star whose image graced countless US servicemen’s quarters, or Tokyo Rose, the nickname for the Japanese-American radio presenter later prosecuted as a war criminal. Or Lili Marleen, the fictional soldiers’ siren from the popular song played and sung on both sides of the front.

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and apparent designs on eastern Ukraine – a murky tale with few identifiable heroes or villains – has brought the world Natalya Poklonskaya, who has become the fresh and comely face of an ugly and fast-expanding east European war. Read more

By Gideon Rachman

As US President Barack Obama and the leaders of the EU huddle together this week, they will strive to look united and resolved. The reality, as Vladimir Putin knows, is that they are divided and uncertain. The Russian president has moved with a speed and ruthlessness that has left western leaders floundering. Russia swallowed Crimea, in less than a week, with scarcely a shot fired. It has now massed troops on Ukraine’s eastern border – and all that the west has so far offered the Ukrainian military is a supply of US army ready-meals.

  • Chris Giles warns that the message from the data behind the UK Budget is that the country’s public finances were terrible, are terrible and still need lots of work to repair.
  • A Russian journalist who wrote a satirical letter to Putin asking him to send troops to restore the rights of Russians in Russia itself found the president was not amused.
  • Iran’s traditional entertainers are having a hard time cheering Iranians as economic gloom blights new year festivities.
  • Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny tells the west how to really punish Russia over its ‘little war’ in Crimea.

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♦ Farhan Bokhari speaks to those on the front line as the Taliban tightens its grip on Pakistan society.

♦ After annexing Crimea, Russia moves to carve up the spoils. Guy Chazan reports from Simferopol.

♦ Russia’s revanchism has to be stopped, even for Russia’s own sake, argues Martin Wolf.

♦ Putin’s well-trained, stealthy army is not like the feeble one that invaded Afghanistan, warns David Ignatius in The Washington Post.

Reuters’ Breaking Views asks whether the eurozone should heed Japan’s deflation lessonsRead more