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Ukraine Progress, Global Inequality, Old-School Darth Vader

In Kiev
In Kiev
Worldcrunch

UN INVITES IRAN TO GENEVA 2, SYRIAN OPPOSITION THREATENS BOYCOTT

  • UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has invited Iran to attend the Geneva 2 peace conference on Syria, which is due to begin Wednesday. Tehran has accepted the invitation but without any pre-conditions, Xinhua reports.

  • Ban Ki-moon’s announcement led Syria’s main opposition group, the Syrian National Coalition, to threaten a conference boycott, France24 reports. The National Coalition had only confirmed its presence at Geneva on Saturday, after suggesting initially that it would not attend.

  • Meanwhile, in an interview with AFP, President Bashar al-Assad dismissed the idea that opposition leaders could figure into a transition government as “a good joke.” Read why here.

SERIES OF BAGHDAD EXPLOSIONS KILL DOZENS
At least 24 people died and another 58 were injured in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad after it was hit by half a dozen explosions, Reuters reports.

YANUKOVYCH TO NEGOTIATE WITH PRO-EU OPPOSITION
Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych has agreed to negotiate with representatives of pro-EU protesters in Kiev and with opposition leaders after yesterday’s violent clashes in the capital, UPI reports. According to Interfax, more than 20 people have been arrested for their suspected involvement in the rioting, which left over 200 police officers and protesters injured. The White House suggested it could impose sanctions on Ukraine for using violence against the demonstrators, Ria Novosti reports.
For more on the subject, we offer this Le Monde/Worldcrunch piece: What Failure In Ukraine Reveals About European Weakness.

SUICIDE BOMB HITS NORTHERN PAKISTAN
A suicide bomber in the northern Pakistani city of Rawalpindi killed at least 14 people, including six soldiers, just one day after 20 soldiers died in another explosion, the BBC reports. The group Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have claimed responsibility for the two attacks.

IRAN STARTS CURBING NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Tehran has started suspending its 20% uranium enrichment program as part of the six-month deal struck in November 2013, news agency IRNA quotes an official from the country’s Atomic Energy Organization as saying. The curb should be accompanied by the lifting of some sanctions by the European Union and the United States, allowing Iran to start exporting oil again.

CHINA ECONOMIC GROWTH LOSING PACE
The Chinese economy grew 7.7% in the last quarter of 2013 over the previous year, as expectations for 2014 suggest growth will reach its slowest pace since 1990,Financial Times reports.

BY THE NUMBERS
Global inequality is so extreme that the combined wealth of the 85 richest people is equal to what the poorest half of the world's population own put together, according to a new report from the development charity Oxfam.

CRIME INT’L
A 3-year-old boy was killed in a Mafia vendetta act in Southern Italy before being torched in a car.

FAREWELL
One of world’s leading conductors, Italian Claudio Abbado, has died at age 80.

MUSIC FOR (VINTAGE) GEEKS
If you’re a Star Wars fan who likes old tech, you’ll love this new version of “The expand=1] Imperial March,” made with floppy drives.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

And If It Had Been Zelensky? How The War Became Bigger Than Any One Person

Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Denys Monastyrsky was killed Wednesday in a helicopter crash. The cause is still unknown, but the high-profile victim could just have well been President Zelensky instead. It raises the question of whether there are indispensable figures on either side in a war of this nature?

Photo of ​Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky looking down in a cemetery in Lviv on Jan. 11

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Lviv on Jan. 11

Anna Akage

-Analysis-

The news came at 8 a.m., local time: a helicopter had crashed in Brovary, near Kyiv, with all the top management of Ukraine's Ministry of Internal Affairs on board, including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky. There were no survivors.

Having come just days after a Russian missile killed dozens in a Dnipro apartment, the first thought of most Ukrainians was about the senseless loss of innocent life in this brutal war inflicted on Ukraine. Indeed, it occurred near a kindergarten and at least one of the dozens killed was a small child.

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But there was also another kind of reaction to this tragedy, since the victims this time included the country's top official for domestic security. For Ukrainians (and others) have been wondering — regardless of whether or not the crash was an accident — if instead of Interior Minister Monastyrsky, it had been President Volodymyr Zelensky in that helicopter. What then?

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