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Crisis in Ukraine

Battle-Ready Rebels in Ukraine

Gleb Garanich/Reuters

The anti-Kiev rebels are getting ready for battle by arresting “spies” and interrogating reporters while looking over their shoulders for support from Moscow.

SLOVYANSK, Ukraine—When he threw his head back, shaking it in disbelief that such a question could be asked, the real menace of the former Soviet military officer came through. One of his gold teeth glinted in the light as he sneered. Why was he holding a pro-Ukrainian woman activist? She who had been led blindfolded into detention on Sunday evening.“I have information she is a spy,” said Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the pro-Russian militant leader in Slovyansk, a rust-belt industrial town on a tributary of the Donets River an hour’s drive from the Russian border.

’90s Chaos

Blame This Drunken Bear for Putin

Alexander Zemlianichenko/AP

Bill Clinton had to call Russia’s first president early in the day to catch him sober. But the U.S. could work with Yeltsin—though he chose a successor who would ‘repudiate his legacy.’

As the first president of the Russian Federation after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin’s biggest mistake was picking Vladimir Putin as his seventh or ninth prime minister. Russian expert Strobe Talbott can’t remember exactly which one, there were so many. “It was like spin the bottle, and the bottle stopped spinning at Putin,” he says.Putin was actually Yeltsin’s sixth prime minister, for those keeping count. Named in August 1999 by Yeltsin, who was deeply unpopular, in failing health, and whose heroic stand atop a tank in defiance of a communist-led coup eight years earlier had been forgotten, replaced by anger over food shortages and rampant corruption.

Villains

Chickens of the Sea

Yonhap/AP

Whatever happened to ‘women and children first’? The captains of the capsized South Korean ferry and the Costa Concordia have set a new bar for maritime cowardice.

If there is something oddly familiar about the news that the erstwhile captain of the ill-fated South Korean ferry—which capsized and sank just a few hundred meters from dry land—botched the evacuation order and jumped ship before his passengers were safe, it’s because we’ve heard about this sort of maritime cowardice before. It happened in 2012, when Italian captain Francesco Schettino rammed his Costa Concordia luxury cruiseliner into the rocks off Giglio island.

SAY WHAT?

Brunei Returns to the Stoning Age

Dean Kassim/AFP/Getty

The tiny sultanate is planning a return to medieval modes of shariah law, with vicious punishments for extramarital sex and anti-Muslim defamation. And nobody’s blinking an eye.

Remember when we all thought historical events would push us toward greater rationality, moderation, and liberalism?Well, on Tuesday, April 22, the tiny sultanate of Brunei planned to put into effect a new penal code that provides “stoning to death” as the penalty for rape, adultery, sodomy, extramarital sexual relations (for Muslims), defamation of the Prophet Mohammed, insulting any verses of the Koran and Hadith, blasphemy, and declaring oneself a prophet or non-Muslim.

Backfired

Germany Helped Prep Russia for War

David Mdzinarishvili/Reuters

Over the past few years, NATO countries have helped Russia revolutionize its armed forces. Now questions are arising about a German defense contractor that trained the Russian military.

The world was shocked when Russian special operations forces invaded Crimea with advanced technology, drastically improved operations, and with so much operational security that even agencies in the U.S. intelligence community didn’t see it coming. In Washington, government and congressional leaders are wondering how the Russian special operations forces got so good, so fast, without anyone noticing. Some are wondering how much help Russia had from the West.

Crisis in Ukraine

God Chooses Sides in Ukraine

Getty

All factions are told God is on their side as Ukraine continues spiraling toward the hell of a partisan war.

YENAKIYEVO, Ukraine—Followers of the Orthodox faith spread Easter treats on newspapers and towels in front of their church in eastern Ukraine on Sunday: painted eggs, sticks of smoked sausages, sugary “kulich” pies and holiday dishes made of ricotta cheese and raisins. All the food was there to be blessed by Father Andrei Boikov, archpriest of Sviato Pokrovsky Church in Yenakiyevo, the hometown of deposed President Victor Yanukovych. It was a day of religious celebration, to be sure, but the priest said his congregation faced “hostile” times.

Missing Teens

Poster Girls for Jihad

Interpol

They disappeared from their homes in Vienna 10 days ago. Then pictures of them started to appear on Facebook dressed in long black veils among Syria’s ‘Holy Warriors.’

They may or may not have gone to fight in Syria. They may or may not have married jihadis there. They may or may not be carrying guns in Facebook pictures, and in the later ones they may or may not be the women staring at the camera through slits in the full-face veil called a niqab. But there’s no doubt at all that the teenagers Sabina Selimovic, 15, and Samra Kesinovic, 16, from Vienna are now the poster girls for holy war against the Assad regime in Damascus.

говно!

Snowden Regrets Staged Putin Q&A

David von Blohn/NurPhoto, via Corbis

Even the NSA leaker’s closest advisers now say his appearance on a Kremlin call-in show, which touched off yet another international firestorm, was a mistake.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden instantly regretted asking Russian President Vladimir Putin a softball question on live television about the Kremlin’s mass surveillance effort, two sources close to the leaker tell The Daily Beast.“It certainly didn’t go as he would’ve hoped,” one of these sources said. “I don’t think there’s any shame in saying that he made an error in judgment.”“He basically viewed the question as his first foray into criticizing Russia.

Crisis in Ukraine

Will the Shootout Provoke Putin?

Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty

A predawn firefight has left at least one, and possibly as many as four pro-Russian activists dead. Kiev fears this could be the pretext Putin has been looking for to roll his tanks across the border.

KIEV, Ukraine—Russia’s foreign ministry accused Ukrainian authorities today of failing to rein in armed extremists after a bloody shootout shattered what was supposed to be an Easter truce. At least one pro-Russian separatist was killed in an apparent early-morning attack on a checkpoint on the outskirts of the eastern Ukraine town of Slovyansk.Some reports suggest the attack may have left as many as four separatists dead, but local police are confirming one killed and three wounded.

Useful Idiot

Snowden Didn’t Call Out Putin

Anadolu Agency/Getty

Snowden defended his appearance on Russian state TV as a way to expose state surveillance to the Russian public. But he didn’t expose the kind that matters—and they don’t care, anyway.

American media coverage of Vladimir Putin’s nearly four-hour call-in marathon on Russian television on Thursday was understandably dominated by a two-and-a-half minute segment featuring fugitive ex-National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who asked if Russia practices mass surveillance of communications of the kind he exposed in the United States.After a bit of ribbing about his and Snowden’s shared background as former “agents,” Putin gave a solemn assurance that Russia does nothing of kind, and conducts surveillance of suspected wrongdoers only in strict accordance with the law.

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