World News Brief, Friday February 13

Ukraine cease-fire brokered; Burma revokes voting rights for Muslim Rohingya; Taiwan prison standoff ends with suicide; Al Jazeera journalists released on bail; suicide bombers target Niger border town; and more 

Top of the Agenda

New Ukraine Cease-Fire Reached

The leaders of Russia, France, Germany, and Ukraine renewed (NYT) a cease-fire agreement after sixteen hours of negotiations in Minsk. The cease-fire is expected to take effect (Reuters) on Sunday and calls for the withdrawal of heavy weapons from front lines and constitutional reform to grant more autonomy to eastern Ukraine. The deal leaves many issues unresolved (Guardian), stoking skepticism that the fragile agreement may not hold. Meanwhile, the IMF announced a four-year, $17.5 billion rescue program (FT) for Ukraine on Thursday, helping Kiev stave off bankruptcy.


"It is the next part of the Minsk plan—what Putin referred to as a 'political settlement'—that will be trickiest. The west’s ultimate aim is to secure Ukraine’s future as an independent state, its territory whole again and guaranteed. It would be a disaster if the current situation—self-declared 'people’s republics' based around the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk—were allowed to ossify into a 'frozen conflict,' establishing de facto a separate rebel-run state and partitioning Ukraine, perhaps for ever," writes Angus Roxburgh for the Guardian.

"Though the deal doesn't grant Putin his ultimate wish—to keep Ukraine within Russia's orbit economically and politically—he couldn't have hoped for that without a decisive military victory. The optics are good for him domestically, though, and Putin can hope to cut the costs of war, including those imposed by the Western economic sanctions," writes Leonid Bershidsky at Bloomberg View.

"If Putin becomes genuinely conciliatory and the war in the Donbas ends, the West’s commitment to Ukraine would focus only on economic assistance. If he continues, irrationally, to escalate, the West will have increased Ukraine’s, and its own, defensive posture. Whatever his response, the United States and Europe must never lose sight of the fact that their Ukraine strategy is only part of a larger Russia strategy whose goal has to be a strong and friendly Russia," argues Alexander J. Motyl in Foreign Affairs.



Burma Revokes Temporary Voting Rights for White Card Holders

President Thein Sein revoked (CNN) voting rights granted Tuesday to the country's Rohingya minority following protests by Buddhist nationalists. The Muslim Rohingya, seen by many as Bangladeshi immigrants, carry temporary IDs known as white cards. A bill enacted Tuesday would have allowed them to vote in a constitutional referendum in May; Sein announced Wednesday that the white cards would expire in March.

TAIWAN: A fourteen-hour prison standoff came to an end Thursday when six armed inmates released the prison warden and head guard they had been holding hostage and committed (SCMP) suicide.


Al Jazeera journalists released on bail

Suicide bombers target Niger border town

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