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CARACAS — Venezuelan security agents have detained Manuel Rosales, an opposition politician returning to the country after six years in exile, at the airport in Maracaibo, in the western state of Zulia. Opposition dailyEl Universal reports that the 63-year-old former presidential candidate and ex governor of Zulia, was arrested "literally as he got off the plane" late Thursday.

The onetime election opponent of late President Hugo Chavez faces charges of embezzling public funds levelled against him in 2008. El Universal cited state prosecutors as saying that the former politician was taken immediately to Caracas to hear the charges against him.

Rosales is just the latest opposition politician in Venezuela in custody, as popular leader Leopoldo Lopez faces a 14-year prison sentence.

Rosales' lawyer Jesús Ollarves denounced the manner of his detention, and insisted his client was not arrested but "handed himself over voluntarily, being put into a van in an unnecessary and exaggerated manner."

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Rosales before fleeing the country in 2009 — Photo: Guillermo Ramos Flamerich

Rosales is a leader and founding member of the opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo, and the party's Twitter account seemed to indicate Rosales was returning to take part in campaigning for the Dec. 6 parliamentary polls. Opposition forces hope then to win majority control of the legislature and curb the power of the socialist President Nicolás Maduro, the hand-picked successor to Chavez.

The pro-government broadcaster TeleSur instead called Rosales a "fugitive from justice" who fled in 2009 to avoid prosecution for alleged financial malfeasance. It observed that his immediate goal on landing had been to attend an opposition meeting in one of the main streets in Maracaibo.

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Geopolitics

One By One, The Former Soviet Republics Are Abandoning Putin

From Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Tajikistan, countries in Russia's orbit have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war. All (maybe even Belarus?) is coming to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the Soviet empire.

Leaders of Armenia, Russia, Tajikistan, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan attend a summit marking the 30th anniversary of signing the Collective Security Treaty in Moscow on May 16.

Oleksandr Demchenko

-Analysis-

KYIV — Virtually all of Vladimir Putin's last remaining partner countries in the region are gone from his grip. Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan have refused to help him turn the tide in the Ukraine war, because they've all come to understand that his next step would be a complete restoration of the empire, where their own sovereignty is lost.

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Before zooming in on the current state of relations in the region, and what it means for Ukraine's destiny, it's worth briefly reviewing the last 30 years of post-Soviet history.

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was first created in 1992 by the Kremlin to keep former republics from fully seceding from the former Soviet sphere of influence. The plan was simple: to destroy the local Communist elite, to replace them with "their" people in the former colonies, and then return these territories — never truly considered as independent states by any Russian leadership — into its orbit.

In a word - to restore the USSR.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

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