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Clashes between anti-government protesters clash and riot police in Kiev on Feb. 18
Clashes between anti-government protesters clash and riot police in Kiev on Feb. 18

-OpEd-

The Western world felt safe in the illusion that nothing would happen in Ukraine until the end of the Sochi Olympic Games. But it woke up on Wednesday to terrifying images of the bloody battlefield of central Kiev, literally ablaze.

After a three-month-long face-off between a pro-European opposition, which hasn't weakened despite the cold winter temperatures, and a government backed by Moscow that is deliberately allowing the situation to worsen, violence seems to have now reached a point of no-return.

The death of at least 25 people since Tuesday — with most of the victims among the protesters, and at least nine among the riot police — and hundreds of others wounded have led both camps to radicalize their positions. Today in Kiev, no one trusts anyone anymore.

The situation in the capital as well as in several outlying regions of Ukraine, is now highly unstable and increasingly perilous. A former Soviet Republic, Ukraine has among its 45 million-strong population many with a military background, trained for combat — not to mention stockpiles of weapons in circulation.

Deaf ears

The leaders of the opposition are divided over what course of action to follow, and are beginning to lose their grip on what is turning into a movement for insurrection. As for President Viktor Yanukovych — whose behavior doesn't cease to surprize — he chose to ignore Tuesday's phone calls from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

During a previous phone conversation in late January, after the first deaths since the beginning of the crisis, Barroso had threatened the Ukrainian president with sanctions if the repression continued. Of course, time has now come for the European Union to put its money where its mouth is. Targeted, personalized sanctions against those responsible for the crackdown and their assets deposited in European capitals — namely Vienna, London and Cyprus — are now vital.

The problem is that, although vital, these sanctions might turn out be too little too late. The crisis is increasingly spiralling out of control, for the Ukrainians and for the EU. Nobody, neither in Brussels nor Moscow, is now in a position to predict the outcome. But if we want to help Ukrainians find the path to dialogue, it is crucial that the European Union finally speaks with one firm voice.

The cacophony of reactions from the European capitals following last night's events is a disgrace. The question is not to make promises we cannot keep. It is to use all the means of pressure at our disposal to reaffirm, with power and unity, the core values of the Union. Indeed, those are the very same values for which thousands of Ukrainians have been fighting for the past three months.

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Geopolitics

Patronage Or Politics? What's Driving Qatar And Egypt Grand Rapprochement

For Cairo, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil,” with anger directed at Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, and others critical of Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood ouster. But the vitriol is now gone, with the first ever visit by Egyptian President al-Sisi to Doha.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi met with the Emir of Qatar in June 2022 in Cairo

Beesan Kassab, Daniel O'Connell, Ehsan Salah, Hazem Tharwat and Najih Dawoud

For the first time since coming to power in 2014, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi traveled to Doha last month on an official visit, a capstone in a steadily building rapprochement between the two countries in the last year.

Not long ago, however, the photo-op capturing the two heads of state smiling at one another in Doha would have seemed impossible. In the wake of the Armed Forces’ ouster of the Muslim Brotherhood government in 2013, Qatar and Egypt traded barbs.

In the lexicon of the intelligence-controlled Egyptian press landscape, Qatar had been part of an “axis of evil” working to undermine Egypt’s stability. Al Jazeera, the main Qatari outlet, was banned from Egypt, but, from its social media accounts and television broadcast, it regularly published salacious and insulting details about the Egyptian administration.

But all of that vitriol is now gone.

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