Ukraine Elects a New Leader as Moscow and Kiev Vow to Give Diplomacy a Try
Election workers were still counting the ballots in Ukraine’s presidential vote when the military began its assault on May 26 against pro-Russian rebels in the eastern region of Donetsk. The rebel fighters, who have received weapons and reinforcements from across the border in Russia, had taken over the Donetsk airport that morning, and Ukrainian helicopter gunships soon arrived to take it back. By the end of the day, dozens of rebels had been killed, marking a grim beginning for the country’s President-elect, Petro Poroshenko.
Known as the Chocolate King for the fortune he made in the candy business, Poroshenko was one of the leaders of the revolution that toppled Ukraine’s old regime in February. His previous experience in government, including posts as Foreign Minister and chairman of the central bank, helped him win the election in a landslide and made it hard for Moscow to maintain its claim that the revolution brought a fascist junta to power in Kiev.
On the eve of the vote, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is open to dialogue with Ukraine’s new leader; Poroshenko in turn pledged to negotiate with Moscow in the coming weeks, signaling a turn toward diplomacy in the months-old conflict. But Poroshenko, 48, vowed not to negotiate with the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, whom he has dismissed as “terrorists.” In the days following his election, Moscow condemned the Ukrainian military’s use of airpower against the rebel fighters as a “colossal mistake.”
Russia’s threat to send a “peacekeeping” mission to support the separatists still stands, as does its military force of tens of thousands of troops across the border. As the fighting escalated in the run-up to the elections, paramilitaries reportedly continued streaming into Ukraine from Russia to reinforce the local rebels. With the Ukrainian government struggling to push them back, the prospect of a Russian intervention–and a full-scale war in Eastern Europe–continues to cast a shadow over both the country and the wider region.
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‘Join me in heartfelt prayer to God for the gift of peace.’
POPE FRANCIS, on a three-day tour of the Holy Land, inviting Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to the Vatican to pray for peace; the two leaders welcomed the initiative, saying they would visit the Pope in June
Three Essential Facts About
Thailand’s Latest Military Coup
On May 22, army chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power in the country’s 12th coup since the end of absolute monarchy in 1932. Key politicians have been detained, and a nightly curfew has been imposed.
The coup came after a court ordered PM Yingluck Shinawatra to step down on May 7 after months of political protests. The army declared martial law ostensibly to maintain order, but it took control of the country’s administration two days later.
Economic Free Fall
The military stepped in against a backdrop of increasing economic turmoil. GDP in Southeast Asia’s second largest economy shrank 2.1% in the first quarter of the year. Tourism makes up 10% of GDP but is now slated to plummet.
No Exit Plan
Prayuth received royal backing for his coup on May 26 but refused to give a timetable for elections. Among the military’s first steps was making delayed payments to rice farmers under a troubled government subsidy scheme that had fanned the unrest.
Number of troops the White House plans to leave in Afghanistan after withdrawing the majority of U.S. forces by the end of the year. The last U.S. troops will leave in 2016
Australia’s Controversial Kangaroo Cull
Officials in Australia’s capital, Canberra, want to control the local marsupial population by culling over 1,600 kangaroos. But the move is being challenged by animal-welfare groups.
Authorities have organized an annual cull since 2008 in an effort to limit overgrazing, which could kill off native plants and other native animals. Over three months, authorities plan to shoot 450 more kangaroos this year than last–the most since 2011, when 2,439 animals were killed.
In mid-May, animal-welfare groups secured a court order suspending the plan, calling it an example of animal cruelty. They also argue that there is insufficient evidence to show that the killings, which target the local population of eastern gray kangaroos, lead to improved biodiversity.
The courts scheduled a three-day hearing beginning May 29 to consider whether to permanently ban the cull. A similar hearing last year led to restrictions being imposed on the number of animals that could be killed.
Lynne Brown was appointed South Africa’s Public Enterprises Minister, making her the country’s first openly gay Cabinet member
China said it would remove more than 5 million aging cars from its streets this year in an effort to improve air quality
Egypt’s presidential polling was extended by a day, to May 28, in a bid to boost voter turnout; former military chief Abdul Fattah al-Sisi is widely expected to win
A gunman opened fire at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, killing four people and leading to a nationwide manhunt
This appears in the June 09, 2014 issue of TIME.