World News Brief, Tuesday May 13

Pro-Russia separatists claim victory in referendums calling for greater autonomy for two Ukrainian states; ASEAN refrains from criticising China over South China Sea clashes; Thai protest leader calls for interim prime minister to be replaced; Boko Haram release video claimed to be abducted girls; Indians vote in final phase of election; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Pro-Russia Separatists Declare Referendum Victory

Pro-Russian separatists claimed landslide victories in improvised referendums on Sunday—considered illegal by the West—that called for greater autonomy (FT) in the eastern Ukrainian states of Donetsk and Luhansk. Yet unclear wording left ambiguous what voters were approving in the plebiscite, and there were no international observers to vet charges of irregularities (Guardian). Organizers of the vote claimed turnout of 75 percent; Kiev disputed the figures, calling the referendums "a farce." On Monday, Moscow called for the vote to be recognized, while EU foreign ministers met in Brussels to levy additional sanctions on Russia (BBC). Meanwhile, the Russian state-owned firm Gazprom has ratcheted up Ukraine's gas bills, highlighting the firm's role as a lever of Russian foreign policy (NYT).


"The result of the referendum has no legal status, but it could be used in political games played by Ukrainian oligarchs who control the region. Some observers suggest this might be used to extract concessions from Kiev, including a federal status. But given the level of violence, the amount of weapons in the hands of militants, and Russia's apparent proxy war against Ukraine, there is every chance that eastern Ukraine will turn into a grey, unrecognised and undesirable zone which nobody voted for," writes the Economist.

"A revolutionary situation always favors extremists, and watchfulness is certainly in order. It is quite striking, however, that Kiev returned to order immediately after the revolution and that the new government has taken an almost unbelievably calm stance in the face of Russian invasion. There are very real political differences of opinion in Ukraine today, but violence occurs in areas that are under the control of pro-Russian separatists," writes Timothy Snyder in the New Republic.

"If eastern Ukraine does pursue independence, that could change. The move would likely produce a crescendo of nationalist sentiment in the rest of Ukraine. Facing a new national trauma, one that cuts deeper than any in recent memory, western Ukrainians may turn to the far-right nationalist groups who have been eager to lash out at Ukraine's adversaries, foreign and domestic. Eastern Ukrainians, in turn, would most likely embrace radical pro-Russian groups. It's exceedingly unlikely that this cycle of mutual alienation would end peacefully," writes Alina Polyakova in Foreign Affairs.


Pacific Rim

ASEAN Steers Clear of Maritime Territorial Disputes

The ten-nation regional organization ASEAN on Sunday refrained from criticizing China in the communiqué issued after its biannual summit, overcoming Vietnam's calls for a strong statement following clashes over an oil rig in the South China Sea (Japan Times). The plight of Myanmar's Rohingya minority was absent from the summit's agenda (WSJ).

THAILAND: Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban occupied the Government House Monday and called for the interim prime minister to be replaced, a move likely to prolong the country's political impasse (Bangkok Post).


Boko Haram releases video claimed to be abducted Nigerian girls 

Indians vote in final phase of election

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