This week, Russia once again dominated news headlines around the world not only for the Olympics, but also for its increasingly militaristic actions against neighboring Ukraine. Meanwhile in China, officials and citizens are reeling over a group knife attack that left dozens dead and even more injured in the southwest city of Kunming. Back in the U.S., Arizona Governor Jan Brewer stepped up to veto a bill that would have given business owners the right to refuse to serve gay and lesbian customers if religion was cited as a reason.
Welcome back to NEWSFLASH, giving you the week's biggest stories!
Ukraine and Russia Mobilize Troops In Crimea Region
As of late Saturday, both Ukraine and Russia have mobilized their troops in Crimea to protect their own respective interests, threatening war in a region increasingly destabilized by the recent violence in Ukraine and Russia's intervention in the country's affairs.
The Ukrainian government ordered their military into east Ukraine after Russia's parliament approved President Vladimir Putin's demand to send Russian soldiers into the Ukraine on Friday. Following the approval, Russia flew hundreds of soldiers into the region while between 2,000 to 6,000 more already stood guard in the Ukraine.
Russia claims that its troops are only there to protect Russian citizens and interests given Ukraine's political instability following the departure of former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich.
“If ‘revolutionary chaos’ in Ukraine continues, hundreds of thousands of refugees will flow into bordering Russian regions,” said the Russian border service to justify their government's actions.
Ukrainian officials were alarmed at Russia's aggression, especially in a region with a strong pro-Russia backing.
NATO is set to hold an emergency meeting about the situation while various countries have spoken out against Russia's actions. President Obama has delivered his own warning to Russia and the U.S. has sided with Ukraine's current acting prime minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk. The U.S. has also suspended talks leading up to June's G-8 summit in Sochi, Russia, which Canada has done as well.
Winter Olympics Come To An End In Sochi
The Winter Olympics drew to a close in Sochi last Sunday after 17 days of competition, marked by a closing ceremony with all the pomp and circumstance that became synonymous with the Games.
Russia topped the medal count with Norway at seven medals behind. The U.S. placed fourth overall right behind Canada, who won the last gold medal of the Games by defeating Sweden 3-0 in men's hockey.
But the world's athletes did not dominate the post-Games discussion. At a staggering $51 billion that exceeded even Beijing's investment of $40 billion in 2008's Summer Olympics, Sochi's Winter Olympics became the most expensive Games in history. Questions, however, are still abound as the corruption and inefficiency of Russia's bureaucracy prior to the Games transferred much of the funds into officials' pockets.
Then there is the question of the Olympics' political utility for Russian President Vladimir Putin. While the "Putting Games" were carried off with much success, the end result did not erase the controversy over Russia's attempted ban on gay athletes, nor did memories of Pussy Riot's whipping by men dressed as Cossacks dissipate. The events were juxtaposed with recent violence in Ukraine and Russia's involvement with the country's government, leaving Putin to scramble in diverting attention away from the protests and towards the Olympics.
The 2018 Winter Olympics will be held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
China Knife Attack Leaves At Least 33 Dead, 143 Injured
A brutal knife attack by a group of assailants claimed at least 33 lives on Saturday night in the southwest Chinese city of Kunming.
At least 10 individuals clad in black ripped through a train station wielding long knives that slashed and stabbed at bystanders. The attack left at least 33 dead and 143 injured, leading many to call the assault "China's 9/11."
Police at the scene fatally shot four of the assailants and arrested one. They are currently on the hunt for the other attackers.
Chinese state officials have accused separatists as being behind the attacks. Kunming is close to the province of Xinjiang, a region that has always clashed with the Chinese government over its mostly Muslim Uyghur minority. Saturday's attack is particularly worrisome as it shows that Uyghur separatists from Xinjiang have potentially expanded their activities way beyond the provinces borders, if reports from the Chinese government are indeed accurate.
Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised to "severely punish" those responsible for the attack. The government has already been rounding up Kunming's extremely small Uyghur population for questioning.
Arizona Governor Vetoes Controversial SB1062 Bill
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill on Wednesday that if passed would have allowed business owners to refuse serving gay and lesbian customers on religious grounds.
In a statement released following the announcement, Brewer acknowledged that while religious freedom was a key value of American society, SB1062 would divide Arizona in a way that would harm the state.
"To the supporters of the legislation, I want you to know that I understand that long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before. Our society is undergoing many dramatic changes," Brewer said. "However, I sincerely believe that Senate Bill 1062 has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve. It could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and no one would ever want."
SB1062 proposed giving business owners the choice to turn away gay and lesbian customers if their religion opposes homosexuality. The bill immediately whipped up a firestorm among the public as crowds of people criticized its discriminatory policies while supporters countered that religious freedom should be upheld.
The bill passed through Arizona's Legislature last week after much debate and public opposition.
But the intense discussions surrounding the bill have not disappeared following Brewer's decision. Supporters and critics of the bill have both been intensely vocal about their position for or against Brewer, leaving the SB1062 debate to rage on.