World News Brief, Wednesday December 11

Diplomats head to Kiev to help ease tensions; North Korea's leader carrying out "reign of terror", says South Korea; Thailand's PM refuses to resign; delay expected in removal of chemical weapons from Syria; Greenpeace activists and Pussy Riot members would be among those freed in Putin amnesty; and more 

Top of the Agenda: Western Diplomats Head to Kiev

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and U.S. deputy secretary of state Victoria Nuland are due to meet Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his opponents in Kiev to help calm tensions in Ukraine (BBC). Riot police removed barricades leading to the presidency, cabinet offices, and parliament in Kiev, and the president is believed to have returned to work after protestors were herded away from government buildings last night (Reuters). About two thousand anti-government protestors defied police and huddled in their main tent village in central Kiev. In Ukraine's east, the country's industrial heartland where most people speak Russian, residents are openly resentful of the pro-Western protestors in Kiev (AP).


"[N]o German bottom line exists on Russia's power plays. Berlin repeatedly projects its own psyche onto Moscow's reflexes, believing that it, too, will shy from confrontation; that it is ready to accept a 'modernization partnership' with the EU; that it will indulge Berlin in (pointless) theoretical conversation about issues like freedom of choice for former Soviet satellites," John Vinocur writes in the Wall Street Journal.

"Though it has mobilized hundreds of thousands in the capital and other cities, the pro-Western protest movement has no legal means to force out Mr. Yanu­kovych, who won a democratic election in 2010. The opposition represents the best of Ukraine—its rising youth and middle class—and if Europe's largest country aligns itself with the West, the dream of a united and democratic continent would be within reach. But it's vital that the pro-Western forces stick to peaceful and democratic tactics," writes the Washington Post in an editorial.

"And what kind of symbolic victory has Europe, its flag replacing Lenin, won in Ukraine today? Ukraine's awkward position between Russia's neo-imperial influence and Europe's pull promises more complications ahead. Would closer ties with the European Union—or even Union membership, which wasn't promised in the agreement that Mr. Yanukovych failed to sign—bring a democratic and transparent style of governance and end corruption and oligarchy, as the protestors hope, or would it turn Ukraine into Europe's service economy, as some critics have cautioned?" writes Sasha Senderovich in the New York Times.


South Korea Warns of North Korea's 'Reign of Terror'

South Korea's president Park Geun-hye said relations with North Korea could become worse, accusing Kim Jong-un of carrying out a "reign of terror" (Yonhap) in his campaign to purge other leaders in order to consolidate power.

CFR's Scott Snyder explains in this blog post the significance of the removal of Jang Song-taek, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

THAILAND: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra refused protestors' demands for her to resign before an upcoming election, and urged them to use the ballot box rather than the streets to choose the next government (AFP).

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick explains in this blog post the demise of Thailand's Democrat Party.


Delay expected in removal of chemical weapons from Syria

Greenpeace activists and Pussy Riot members could be freed in Putin amnesty

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