Scenes of Russian troops taking control of Crimea might well lead one to believe that Russian leader Vladimir Putin holds most, if not all the cards in the unfolding Russian-Ukrainian crisis. Yet the Russian leader’s Crimea gambit should be seen as a reflection not of his strength, but of his feelings of insecurity.
At its easternmost tip, the border between the Crimean peninsula and Russia runs through a channel, where a forty-minute ferry ride connects the Ukrainian city of Kerch to the Russian side. In recent days, travelers to Kerch have been met by soldiers toting automatic weapons who don’t seem inclined to leave anytime soon.
There is a guerrilla war going on in the middle of the Georgian capital, Tbilisi. But this is no armed conflict. It’s a struggle over green space and greenbacks, and one with important implications for grassroots activism throughout the region.
President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s administration in Kazakhstan has weathered the tempest stirred up by the devaluation of the country’s currency earlier in February. But officials now face a longer-term test as they confront an erosion of public trust.
While leaders of the Euromaidan movement strive to consolidate their authority, not all Ukrainian citizens are buying into the new order in Kyiv. In particular, Russian-speakers in Crimea, which only became a part of Ukraine in 1954, have become the focus of international attention for their defiance of the new authorities in Kyiv.
Kara-Keche, a sprawling deposit containing about 430 million tons of coal in mountainous Naryn Province, is a key asset for Kyrgyzstan’s struggling economy. It’s not just the government and an array of local companies plying the open pit mines that are interested in the dirty black stuff. Last November, a shootout at Kara-Keche among gangsters highlighted an unsavory side of the business.
Sergei Nigoyan, a 20-year-old ethnic Armenian born in Ukraine, was the first Euromaidan activist to fall. His death back in late January created a challenge for leaders of the sizable Armenian community in Ukraine: as the revolution unfolds, Armenians are generally eager to be seen as loyal and neutral.
Armenia’s four competitors at the Sochi Winter Olympics didn’t come close to winning a medal. But a joke making the rounds in Yerevan goes that since the athletes made it into Russia, they should at least stick around and look for work.
Security officials in several Central Asia states are playing up the threat posed by Islamic militants returning to the region from Syria. While authorities warn of potential problems ahead, analysts are struggling to assess the real risk level.