On July 17, 2014, several weeks after “little green men” had started to occupy Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, I rushed into the management offices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, located in Kyiv, as word spread over social media that the unthinkable had happened.
A passenger plane – Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 – enroute from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur had been shot down over the territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
As the OSCE’s spokesperson in Ukraine at the time, I quickly realized that because we were the only international entity with access to the area, we would soon be tasked with rushing to the crash site – and reporting to the world what was transpiring.… Seguir leyendo »
In a grinding war such as the one in Ukraine, one learns how to read subtle changes in the public mood. So it was on Thursday -- one month since Russian forces invaded and just as NATO leaders pledged continued support to Ukraine -- that I spotted outside my apartment windows, on the edges of Lviv's old city, construction workers in high-visibility jackets and tall yellow ladders busily boarding up the neighboring church's magnificent stained glass windows.
It's a scene that's being replayed across this UNESCO world heritage city, from schools to shopfronts and government buildings.
It is also a clear sign that Ukrainians are digging in for the long haul.… Seguir leyendo »
On Monday, as Ukraine was bracing for a possible Russian invasion and another punishing Covid-19 wave, President Volodymyr Zelensky held an event on digital transformation which resembled something out of Apple founder Steve Jobs' playbook.
Flashy graphics and cool suits framed a presentation which included a pledge to gift heavily discounted smartphones and a preferential tariff for the internet to every senior in Ukraine who is fully vaccinated.
The event might have been timed to distract attention away from the current crisis, or maybe quite simply as a follow-up on a Zelensky election pledge to transform Ukraine into a "country in a smartphone".… Seguir leyendo »
As a series of high-level talks between the United States, European allies and Russia wind down this week, an uptick in Moscow's military muscle on its borders will remain a preoccupation of western diplomats long after they return to their duty stations
The roughly 100,000 Russian troops stationed near Ukraine constitutes the biggest security crisis in years for Europe and its allies, including the US. While in Kazakhstan, Russian President Vladimir Putin took this month's brutal crackdown from the regime's President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev as an opportunity to remind protesters revolutions will never be allowed to spread in the region and by deploying Moscow-led security alliance troops to help quell the unrest, the central Asian country remains firmly in his sphere of influence
The tone of Putin's rhetoric and the trajectory of military deployment leave little doubt over his intentions: to regain control over a wide swath of the former Soviet Union -- even to the point of rolling back the footprint of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to the Cold War years.… Seguir leyendo »
As 2022 nears, the West is trying to figure out Russian President Vladimir Putin's next move on a complex geopolitical chessboard -- and preparing an "aggressive package" of sanctions, should he decide to make another land grab in Ukraine.
Tensions are now at their highest since 2014, when Russia illegally annexed Crimea and dispatched "little green men" into Ukraine's Donbas region. An all-out land invasion of Ukraine is now a real possibility.
But let's face it. Putin could care less about the West's threats, sitting as he does in the enviable position of being able to call the shots.
Europe is in the grip of an energy crisis with low reserves.… Seguir leyendo »
The strange and unpredictable world of geopolitics played out over the Pacific skies Friday as one commercial jet carrying the j ust-released daughter of one of China's most prominent tycoons flew westbound while another carrying two Canadians incarcerated in apparent retaliation for her arrest flew in the opposition direction.
The arrangement, in effect a modern-day version of a Cold War prisoner swap, brought an abrupt end to a saga that has severely poisoned relations between Canada and China, cast an unwelcome spotlight on one of China's trophy tech companies, Huawei, and complicated Beijing's public relations efforts to project a happy face with the Winter Olympics less than five months away.… Seguir leyendo »
In an election few wanted and which ended up as the most expensive in Canadian history, Justin Trudeau, on Monday managed to return his party to the government benches in the House of Commons for the third consecutive time.
He failed to obtain a majority of seats -- forcing him once again to reach across the aisle to opposition parties in order to pass key legislation, and the costly exercise should raise questions about Trudeau's credibility, especially when the Covid-19 crisis remains far from over.
The Liberal Party leader never said he was gunning for a majority, but his opponents -- including his main opponent, Erin O'Toole of the Conservatives -- insisted a wasteful power grab was the objective.… Seguir leyendo »
In what Canadian officials have described as "arbitrary" decisions, Chinese courts this week have handed down a harsh sentence to Michael Spavor, accused of espionage, and upheld a death sentence for Robert Schellenberg, convicted of drug smuggling in the Asian country in 2018. The decisions come as the extradition trial of the Chinese tech giant Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou is entering its final stages in a Vancouver courtroom.
Meng is wanted by the United States on multiple serious charges, including bank fraud and violating US sanctions against Iran by selling telecom equipment. She was arrested in late 2018. Meng and Huawei have denied the allegations.… Seguir leyendo »
After forcing down a civilian airliner from European skies in May to detain a journalist who was on board, perhaps it was only a matter of time before "Europe's last dictator", Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, would be thrust back into the international spotlight and once again face fresh condemnation for his abhorrent actions.
The regime's trademark thuggery came into focus over the weekend when Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya defected at the Tokyo Olympics after being forcibly scheduled into a race by her country's coaches. Her public protests on social media apparently angered her team's officials and the athlete was ordered back to Minsk but refused to board the flight home, instead opting to request political asylum in a third country.… Seguir leyendo »
Against all odds, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau managed to beat a Covid-19 vaccination benchmark that even his counterpart to the south, US President Joe Biden, was unable to meet.
After initially bungling its Covid-19 vaccine rollout, falling behind many other developed nations, including the United States, over the weekend Canada moved ahead of its southern neighbor in per-capita vaccinations.
According to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) vaccine tracker, as of mid-day Tuesday, 50.8% of Canadians were fully vaccinated. By comparison, just 48.6% of Americans have taken their full dose of vaccines, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the difference for people given at least one dose is even greater: 69.7% and 56.1% respectively).… Seguir leyendo »
Trying to discern Russian President Vladimir Putin's endgame is always a difficult exercise, particularly given his inclination to upset the status quo -- as he did most recently, in 2014, with the invasion of Crimea and later the Donbas region of Ukraine. But now seems to be as good a time as ever for the Kremlin to test the mettle of President Joe Biden's new administration.
Since March, Russia has been building up its troops along its western border with Ukraine. According to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, there are more Russian troops in the region now than in the run-up to Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014.… Seguir leyendo »
A year into this global pandemic, we have seen anything but an effective, coordinated approach among nations to address the crisis on a global scale. Amid this backdrop, Tuesday's news that a group of countries is pledging to work together to prevent future pandemics can be regarded only as a positive development for the world.
The so-called pandemic treaty to bring greater international cooperation for public health emergencies has been endorsed by more than 20 world leaders -- but not by the US, China, India and Russia -- in an editorial published in several media outlets and on the World Health Organization (WHO) website on Tuesday.… Seguir leyendo »
With live fire being deployed on a widespread basis in Myanmar since a military coup on February 1, the generals who seized power have lived up to fears that they would resort to lethal force against their own citizens. Early restraint in the face of peaceful protesters has been replaced with bullets, and security forces have killed more than 50 people to date.
Several victims were killed by shots to the head -- a sign that the troops were shooting to kill as part of their intensifying crackdown that also has included curfews and nightly i nternet shutdowns, armored vehicles and armed troops on the streets and draconian laws limiting freedom of speech and assembly.… Seguir leyendo »
With Alexei Navalny back in Russia five months after surviving a poisoning with the nerve agent Novichok, his courageous return presented Russian President Vladimir Putin -- who Navalny believes ordered his killing -- with two choices: allow the high-profile activist to continue to be a thorn in his side or lock him up in the hopes that he fades into obscurity.
We learned Sunday that Putin chose the second option. And the question now is whether Navalny's anti-corruption movement can survive with its incredibly telegenic and social media savvy leader isolated from the frontlines -- especially with factors like pandemic restrictions limiting public gatherings stacked against them.… Seguir leyendo »
Last week, as the smoke cleared from the shocking pro-Trump mob attack on the US Capitol, America's global reputation as a stable, strong democracy emerged badly damaged. Now, many are questioning whether it can ever regain the moral authority necessary to lead the world's democracies, fledgling or otherwise.
From Beijing to Caracas to Moscow, governments, state-controlled media and online commentators reacted with schadenfreude, accusing Washington of hypocrisy and double standards.
"The United States lost all the rights to pursue the democratic path and lost their rights to impose it on other countries," said an anchor on the state-owned Russia 24 news channel.… Seguir leyendo »
For someone so adept at kicking the legs out from under his political opponents, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau surprisingly didn't spot a potentially catastrophic political crisis approaching in the rear-view mirror.
Last week, Canadians were exasperated after being told by federal public health officials and then Trudeau that the majority of them are not expected to be vaccinated against the deadly Covid-19 virus until September or even as late as December 2021. This is possibly months after people in other G7 countries that manufacture vaccines are expected to have access -- places such as the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom.… Seguir leyendo »
While the world is preoccupied with the Covid-19 pandemic, the regional conflict in the remote separatist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh is threatening to escalate into a wider war on the doorsteps of Europe and Asia. Saturday's Russia-brokered ceasefire has already crumbled, with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov acknowledging Monday that hostilities were continuing.
The violence, which broke out two weeks ago, has killed more than 300 people and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) president Peter Maurer told me that fighting is so intense even staff working close to the contact line had to take shelter frequently.
Nagorno-Karabakh is controlled by ethnic Armenians located in Azerbaijan and both Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics, have accused each other of violating the terms of the ceasefire.… Seguir leyendo »
It seems an awfully long time since Canadians were last lectured by the state on sexual behavior. Just as folks were headed out for Labor Day long weekend frolicking, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, warned fellow citizens to wear a mask while having sex and to avoid kissing people in order to prevent passing along a Covid-19 infection.
Tam, who also serves on a World Health Organization (WHO) international oversight committee, said "sex can be complicated" during the pandemic and that the lowest risk sexual activity during Covid-19 involves "yourself alone."
The stern warning -- echoed again on Tuesday by Dr.… Seguir leyendo »
With the German government's announcement Wednesday of "unequivocal evidence" that the nerve agent Novichok was used in the poisoning of Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, we are once again reminded how a vacuum in global leadership -- notably, in this instance, the silence of the American President -- can potentially open the way for the world's strongmen to reach for the deadliest means to silence their critics.
German scientists said they found the feared and deadly chemical of mass destruction in Navalny's body, and there are several theories on why the anti-corruption activist (who Putin seems hesitant to mention by name) was targeted.… Seguir leyendo »
With mass protests erupting in Belarus over a disputed presidential election on Sunday, after which incumbent Alexander Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory, the Kremlin must be watching nervously.
Thousands have been arrested in the former Soviet republic and heavily armed Belarusian security forces are on the streets. The leading opposition candidate, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, has fled to neighboring Lithuania. Internationally, the reaction has been a mix, from Western governments warning against violent suppression of protesters (the United States, the European Union, NATO and many European neighbors have sounded that alarm) to a congratulatory note from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In contrast, Russian President Vladimir Putin called for Lukashenko to resume stalled integration plans to join Belarus and Russia into one country.… Seguir leyendo »