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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Flashback In The USSR? How Former Soviet Republics Are Reacting To War in Ukraine

Vladimir Putin has been upfront about his desire to rebuild Russia’s influence in the region. Former Soviet states are watching developments in Ukraine closely, with many trying to ensure futures free of interference by Moscow.

For 69 years, the Kremlin was able to keep what were de facto separate nations within the Soviet orbit by the use of weapons, hunger and fear. Even after the collapse of the USSR, every Russian leader considered the former republics to be at least a zone of his influence.

Yet Vladimir Putin has revealed his true understanding of neighborliness, repeatedly stating that the collapse of the Soviet Union was a huge tragedy for Russia. And on this, one might agree, he is right.

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Under the Communist Party, each of the national republics also had their own government, albeit ultimately controlled by the Kremlin. Each of the republics, whether in Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, or Ukraine, had their own capital, culture, language and traditions. For each of the national republics, secession from the Soviet Union brought liberation and independence — an opportunity to build their own state. For every former member state, that is, except Russia.

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How Putin "Lost" Kazakhstan, And Squashed His Own Soviet Revival

For Vladimir Putin, invading Ukraine was the first massive step in reviving the power of Soviet times. His war has done the opposite. Kazakhstan is the first former Soviet republic to distance itself from Russia and turn to the West. But the Central Asian country may not be able to free itself of Russian influence as quickly as it would like.


Less than three months ago, the president of Kazakhstan asked the Kremlin to send troops into his country. In January, shortly before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the vast Central Asian country was rocked by uprisings, with tens of thousands of citizens protesting high prices for the liquid gas that they use as fuel for cooking, heating and cars.

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Militant groups attacked police stations and the capital’s airport. Head of state Kassym-Jomart Tokayev feared a coup. He called for help from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), an intergovernmental military alliance between former Soviet states, long dominated by Russia.

Vladimir Putin responded within a few hours – and for a while, the eyes of the world were on Kazakhstan as Moscow sent in “peacekeeping forces.” According to official figures, at least 250 people died during the two weeks of unrest, while thousands were arrested.

Much of what happened remains shrouded in secrecy: the brutal actions of the state, but also the identity of those protestors who were armed. “Traitors,” according to the government.

The involvement of CSTO troops has no historical precedent in the post-Soviet era. In January, experts feared that Putin would refuse to withdraw his troops from the country, which has rich reserves of oil, natural gas and other natural resources. It would have been a turning point if the Kremlin had used the alliance to establish a military presence in Central Asia. Although it wouldn’t have been surprising given Putin’s strategy: at a recent patriotic rally that packed out Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, songs were played that referred to Kazakhstan as part of Russia.

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What Putin Feared Most About Ukraine: It's A European Democracy

For authoritarian leaders from Beijing to Moscow, it’s unbearable that democratic institutions like the European Union succeed. So it is vital that we Europeans build measures to protect democratic sovereignty.


PARIS — For a dictatorship to endure, it needs more than just surveillance and terror. It must also be able to convince the people it enslaves that their future, in a regime of freedom, would not be sufficiently better to justify taking the risk of rebellion.

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So dictatorships have always done everything possible to discredit any neighboring society their subjects could look to for a comparison. Before starting the war, Nazi Germany spent its time denouncing the weaknesses of European and American democracies and ridiculing their leaders. It must be admitted that the latter provided it with good arguments to do so.

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Kazakhstan: When One Strongman Replaces Another

Violent unrest in Kazakhstan has resulted in a new authoritarian leader finally assuming proper power in the country. Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev promises a new way of doing things, but his methods are strikingly similar to his predecessor.

The real transition of power in Kazakhstan was supposed to have taken place in 2019. Former president Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had ruled the former Soviet Republic with an iron first since its independence in 1991, finally stepped aside to allow his successor, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, to take power.

However, Nazarbayev retained enormous influence behind the scenes. The real transfer of power is in fact happening only now, following large-scale unrest and protests around the country.

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Lena Surzhko Harned

Kazakhstan's Turn: Putin Having His Way With Former Soviet Republics

As with Ukraine and Belarus, Kazakhstan is falling under the grip of Moscow as a response to disorder and threats to align with the West.


Add Kazakhstan to the list of former Soviet republics whose independence is now being threatened by Russia. Russian leader Vladimir Putin is using a similar playbook in Kazakhstan to one that he has used over almost a decade to threaten the sovereignty of Ukraine.

What began as protests over rising fuel prices on Jan. 2, 2021, quickly escalated into violent clashes on the streets of Kazakhstan. On Jan. 5, Kazakhstan President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, a firm ally of Putin’s, requested support from the Collective Security Treaty Organization, of which Putin’s Russian Federation is the leading member. Russia has responded decisively by sending paratroopers, special operations troops and equipment as part of a nearly 3,000-strong force to Kazakhstan.

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Anna Akage

What Is Really Driving Kazakhstan’s Explosion Of Violence

Rising fuel costs were the initial spark for rare public protests in Kazakhstan. But the violent unrest reveals widespread dissatisfaction with the authoritarian regime that has ruled the country since its independence.

Less than a week into 2022, and It has already been a tumultuous — and deadly — year in Kazakhstan, the former Soviet Republic. Initial protests over rising gasoline prices that began in the west of the country have spread to the largest city, Almaty, and turned violent, with government buildings set ablaze and Kazakh police opening fire on protesters. By Thursday morning, dozens of protesters and 12 police were dead, with one officer found beheaded.

It was an extraordinary explosion of violence over what was reported to be economic unrest. Yet in the oil-producing regime, which has been effectively run since its 1991 independence by strongman Nursultan Nazarbayev, observers note that much deeper political, and geopolitical, questions are also at play. In the pre-dawn hours Thursday, the country’s prime minister Askar Mamin had resigned and Russia had dispatched paratroopers to the country.

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New Monday, New World: Russia Is In Charge

Well that was quite a first weekend. After Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday, an estimated two million people took to the streets worldwide to protest against the controversial new president, who continued his open warfare with the American press — and some would say, with the truth itself. Now, he faces a first work week at the Oval Office that promises to be no less hectic, as he starts rolling out his plan for his first 100 days, before welcoming British Prime Minister Theresa May on Friday.

But even for the man who promised to put "America first," the most important event of his first Monday in office, which could shape his whole presidency, is taking place halfway across the world, in the capital of Kazakhstan.

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Nataliya Nehlebova

At Former Soviet Nuclear Test Site, "Best Not To Take Souvenirs"

Hundreds of atomic bombs were detonated at the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in eastern Kazakhstan during the Soviet regime. Scientists are now conducting research on the site, which was shuttered 25 years ago, to evaluate how radiation affected the reg

THE POLYGON — At first, it's hard to tell where the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site begins as the scorched steppe stretches to the horizon. But turning onto a dusty road signals that we've reached the site, also known as the Polygon. Fallen telegraph poles lie on yellowed grass. You can see broken pillars and bridges torn in half. Concrete pillars mark the borders of the Polygon, which at 18,500 square kilometers is more than half the size of Belgium.

Inside the Polygon, strange four-story constructions, called gusaki, or "geese", loom like dark giants. They do resemble colossal birds, with their long, charred necks stretched toward the sky. They were built in the 1950s to house nuclear equipment and armored long-range cameras that were capable of filming explosions at seven frames per second.

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Trump v. Hillary?, Bin Laden Will, Livestream Eclipse


Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton moved closer to a presidential face-to-face, with each winning seven of the 11 states holding primaries on the so-called Super Tuesday. Trump took home Republican primary wins in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Vermont and Virginia, while Clinton won Democratic contests in Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

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Aiding Ukraine, Two Cops Shot In Ferguson, Ancient Lobster

The United States will send more “non-lethal” military equipment to Ukrainian forces, including Humvees, drones and night-vision goggles, $75 million worth, a senior administration official said yesterday. Washington also extended its sanctions on Russia by adding a bank and eight Ukrainian rebels to the list of targets, Reuters reports. The decisions come after the West accused Russia of having violated the Minsk ceasefire agreement signed Feb. 12 and of sending forces and tanks across the border despite reports that the rebels had pulled their heavy weaponry from the front. The Kremlin has rejected the accusations.

  • The International Monetary Fund has approved a $17.5 billion loan to Ukraine that the authorities hope will help stabilize the country’s economy.
  • Uncertainty over the motive behind the murder of Russia opposition politician Boris Nemtsov continues. Speaking to the BBC, one of Nemtsov’s daughters said Putin was “politically” responsible.

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On March 12, 1945, Holocaust diarist Anne Frank died at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Get your 57-second shot of history.

A group of 21 aid agencies is pointing the finger at the United Nations Security Council, saying that its failure to implement three resolutions seeking to boost humanitarian aid have contributed to 2014 being Syria’s worst year since the war erupted in early 2011. The report, entitled “Failing Syria,” also notes that just 57% of the money needed to support Syrian civilians and refugees was provided in 2014, down from 71% the previous year. Ongoing fighting and the rise of ISIS have made 2014 the conflict’s deadliest year so far, with an estimated 76,000 casualties. Another report shows that 83% of Syria’s lights visible from space have gone out since March 2011. Read more from the BBC.

China convicted and sentenced 712 people for terrorism, separatism and related crimes last year, the country's top court said, explaining that such offenses were its top priority for 2015 after the Xinjiang region’s recent surge in violence.

Photo above: NASA/Bill Ingals
The Soyuz TMA-14M spacecraft returned to Earth late Wednesday, landing near Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, with Expedition 42 Commander Barry Wilmore of NASA, Alexander Samokutyaev of the Russian Federal Space Agency and Elena Serova of Roscosmos on board. The crew is back from their 167-day mission on the International Space Station.

Even as negotiations between the West and Iran over Tehran’s controversial nuclear program continue, Saudi Arabia, one of Iran’s arch enemies in the region and a known supporter of terrorism, has just quietly signed its own nuclear-cooperation agreement with South Korea, The Wall Street Journalreports. The deal is seen by some in the U.S. as a sign that a nuclear arms race may be starting in the Middle East.

As La Stampa’s Domenico Quirico reports, ISIS has thoroughly overtaken a Bosnian village that is but a one-hour plane flight from Vienna. “What the people have been deprived of here is not just a united country,” the journalist writes. “A year ago, people took to the streets, burning town halls and ministries, demonstrating their rage against chronic hunger and frustration about the country's paralysis and corruption. One year later, nothing has happened — civic committees have entirely disappeared or have been absorbed by political parties. In the small town of Gornja Maoca, the ISIS flag has been raised and the people live as if they were in lands conquered by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's men.”
Read the full article, In The Bosnian Village Seduced By ISIS.

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Suspected al-Shabaab fighters have launched an attack against a government building in the central Somali town of Baidoa, leaving at least seven people dead, according to AP. “They are Shabaab disguised in Somali military uniforms. That's how they managed to enter” the city’s fortified area which also contains a UN compound, a police official told AFP. Attacks from militants with the al-Qaeda-affiliated group have become more regular, and they often target government headquarters and Somali lawmakers. The humanitarian situation in areas controlled by the Islamist group are deteriorating fast as al-Shabab fighters have banned businesses from supplying food and medicine to the town of Buloburde.

“Mankind will remain a major geological force for many millennia, maybe millions of years to come,” unless volcanic activity or a meteor crushes human domination, geologists wrote in an analysis published in Nature. Read more from Bloomberg.

Two police officers were shot outside police headquarters in Ferguson, Missouri, overnight amid protests that came hours after the Police Chief Thomas Jackson’s resignation, USA Today reports. Jackson had been accused in a federal report of conducting racially biased policing. One of the police officers was shot in the face and left seriously wounded, and the other was hit in the shoulder.

Scientists have discovered a 480-million-year-old fossil of a lobster-like creature that they say “would have dwarfed anything else at the time.” The seven-foot-long prehistoric creature is an early ancestor of modern crustaceans, insects and spiders. Read more from The Verge.

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