By Noah Rayman
August 14, 2014

Eastern Ukraine Teeters on the Brink Of Full-Blown War

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has descended into siege warfare. After four months of fighting, government forces have managed to surround the last two strongholds of the pro-Russian separatist rebels, pounding them with heavy artillery and cutting off supplies of water, power and natural gas.

As a result, the death toll doubled in two weeks, reaching 2,086 as of Aug. 10, the U.N. said. The rebels have been fighting back ferociously, answering the army’s barrages with volleys of their own and resorting to guerrilla tactics.

As the conflict continued, a shell hit a prison on Aug. 11, killing one inmate and allowing more than 100 others to escape. Other shells have hit residential areas. Amid the violence, the U.N. said on Aug. 5 that 730,000 people had fled to Russia, while 120,000 escaped to other parts of Ukraine.

Attention now is focused on a convoy of nearly 300 trucks bound for the war zone from Russia. The Kremlin says the convoy is carrying humanitarian aid. But Ukrainian authorities, fearing that the trucks could become a bridgehead for a Russian invasion, have said they won’t allow them to enter the country.

Kiev’s Western allies share those concerns. The head of the NATO military alliance said there is a “high probability” of a Russian invasion, possibly under the guise of an aid mission. The rebel fighters may be under siege, but with roughly 20,000 Russian troops poised at the border and the convoy snaking toward Ukraine, the risk of a full-blown war in Europe has only grown.

ARGENTINA

‘I didn’t want to die without hugging him.’

ESTELA CARLOTTO, president of Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo, a group searching for children stolen and illegally sent for adoption under the 1970s military junta in Argentina, after locating her missing grandson Ignacio Hurban; he was the 114th grandchild to be “recovered” by the group.

POLL

DO YOU HAVE CONFIDENCE IN YOUR JUDICIARY?

Gallup posed the question to people in 28 African countries. Here’s a sampling of those who said yes:

[The following text appears within a map. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual map.]

69% Malawi

51% Zimbabwe

39% Uganda

22% Congo

THE EXPLAINER

ERDOGAN’S SECOND ACT

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was elected President on Aug. 10 in the country’s first direct presidential vote, after party rules barred him from seeking a fourth term as Premier. His victory heralds a change in the balance of power between the two highest offices of the Turkish state.

REMAKING THE PRESIDENCY

Currently held by Abdullah Gul, the post has traditionally been ceremonial, but Erdogan has vowed to continue to play an active role in Turkish politics, pointing to his mandate as the first President to be popularly elected instead of being chosen by parliament. He is expected to seek constitutional changes to formally create a U.S.-style executive presidency.

CHOOSING A SUCCESSOR

Before taking office on Aug. 28, Erdogan will oversee the selection of a new leader of his party, who will likely become the next Prime Minister. He is expected to pick a staunch loyalist who would back his political agenda.

WHAT’S NEXT

Erdogan’s plans to centralize power have prompted concerns about creeping authoritarianism. His crackdown on antigovernment protesters last year and attempts to block access to YouTube and Twitter drew criticism at home and abroad.

Panda-monium

CHINA

Ju Xiao, a giant panda housed at a zoo in Guangzhou, China, embraces a cub–one of three she delivered in July, according to the zoo, which unveiled the rare births on Aug. 12. The cubs–the world’s only known surviving panda triplets–were conceived as part of China’s artificial-breeding program to boost its panda population. The critically endangered animals have a notoriously low birthrate, and only about 1,600 remain in the wild.

ROUNDUP

The World’s Cybercrime Hot Spots

A group of Russian hackers has gathered 1.2 billion user-name-and-password combinations from Internet users since 2011, according to Hold Security, a cybersecurity firm. Cybercriminals in Russia and Eastern Europe are considered the most technologically advanced–but they are not alone. Below, other countries that have become known as bases for sophisticated hackers.

China

The government is suspected of hiring skilled domestic hackers to mount attacks abroad. In May, the U.S. accused five officials in China of leading an effort to target American firms.

Brazil

Experts say Brazil is an emerging cybercrime hot spot where criminals buy sophisticated software from Russia and Eastern Europe to steal private data like banking passwords.

Nigeria

The original home of scam emails, Nigeria has become a destination for international hacking syndicates, partly because authorities have been slow to crack down on cybercriminals.

Vietnam

The country’s thriving tech sector has produced skilled hackers, experts say. Last year the U.S. charged a man from Ho Chi Minh City for his part in a $200 million online credit-card fraud.

FRANCE

$1.2 MILLION

Value of gold bars and coins allegedly stolen by three French construction workers who chanced upon the trove while working on a Normandy property

Trending In

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PROGRESS

Professor Maryam Mirzakhani, an Iranian-born academic based in the U.S., became the first woman to win the Fields Medal, the world’s top math prize

JUSTICE

Two leaders of the brutal 1970s Khmer Rouge regime were found guilty of crimes against humanity by a U.N.-backed court in Cambodia

RECOVERY

The Malaysian government took its troubled national airline private as it tries to revive the company after two high-profile disasters

TRAGEDY

Brazilian presidential candidate Eduardo Campos died in a plane crash near São Paulo on Aug. 13

Write to Noah Rayman at noah.rayman@time.com.

This appears in the August 25, 2014 issue of TIME.

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