February 2014 Current Events: World News
Here are the key events in world news for the month of February 2014.
The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics Begin (Feb. 7): Despite threats of terrorist attacks, complaints about poor preparations and the international condemnation over their anti-gay law, Russia kicks off the costliest Olympic Games in history with an opening ceremony filled with music, floats and a light show using the most advanced technology available. The opening ceremony is mostly glitch free, although one of the five floating Olympic rings fails to open. Russian President Vladimir Putin attends and officially announces the start of the games during the ceremony. On the same day as the opening ceremony, a passenger on a Turkish jetliner tells the crew a bomb is on board and to fly the plane to Sochi. Instead, the crew sends a signal to Istanbul where it lands. The suspect is taken into custody. No bomb is found onboard. Meanwhile, the U.S. government bans all liquids, gels, aerosols and powders in carry-on luggage for flights to and from Russia. The ban comes after the U.S. issues a warning that explosive material could be concealed in toothpaste tubes. (Feb. 23): The 2014 Winter Games close with an impressive ceremony, including Russia poking fun at its five floating ring opening ceremony malfunction. Despite the controversies and terror threats, the Sochi Games are incident free and a success. Russia leads the final medal count with 33, following by the United States with 28, and Norway with 26.
Second Round of UN-Led Negotiations Begin in Geneva (Feb. 10): A second round of negotiations brokered by the UN between the Syrian government, members of the opposition, the U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Russia begin in Switzerland. U.S. officials criticize Syrian government for its lack of commitment to the peace process. The government places members of the opposition coalition on a list of terrorists and says the first step in the peace process must be ending terrorism. The opposition's top priority is setting up a transitional government, and presents a road map to put such a framework in place. The proposal does not specifically mention ousting President Bashar al-Assad. The negotiations end without making any progress.
China and Taiwan Officials Hold First Meeting in 65 Years (Feb. 11): High-ranking officials from China and Taiwan meet in Nanking, China. It is the first time since the 1949 split that minister-level officials held talks. While the meeting is largely symbolic, it signals that both sides want to maintain stability and warmer ties.
Protest Becomes Violent in Venezuela (Feb. 12): Frustrated over increasing economic problems such as high inflation, thousands of demonstrators pour into Caracas. The protest begins with a peaceful march. However, a group of government opponents show up and call for a response to the arrest of protestors elsewhere in Venezuela. The demonstration turns violent. Three people are killed after several hundred protesters throw rocks at government buildings and police officers. Of the violence, President Maduro says, later on television, "I alert the world: we are facing a planned coup d'tat." (Feb. 14): Two days after the demonstration, government officials blame the three deaths on opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, a protest organizer. Lopez denies any responsibility, but turns himself in to the authorities. He is arrested and taken to a military prison. Protests continue to spread and intensify after his arrest.
UN Releases Stunning North Korea Report (Feb. 17): The UN's Human Rights Council releases a report accusing North Korea of crimes against humanity and compare the regime to that of Nazi Germany. The report is stunning in its graphic description of the horrors endured by political prisoners-who number between 80,000 and 120,000. The council recommends that North Korea be referred to the International Criminal Court. China is cited for "aiding and abetting crimes against humanity" for supporting North Korea and detaining and repatriating refugees from North Korea. Meanwhile, about 360 South Koreans, mostly elderly, travel to North Korea to meet with relatives from whom they were separated when the Korean Peninsula split after World War II. The reunions, the first since 2010, are part of an effort to improve ties between the North and the South, which have further deteriorated over the status of North Korea's nuclear program.
Ukraine Protests Take Violent Turn (Feb. 20): Riot police and protesters clash as the demonstrators attempt to reclaim portions of Independence Square, a central plaza in Kiev, the Ukraine capital that police had taken over two days before. More than 100 people are killed in the latest clash and makeshift clinics are set up to treat the wounded. Demonstrators capture 67 police officers. The clash ends a truce that began just hours before, a truce formed after at least 26 people were killed in clashes earlier in the week. (Feb. 21): The clash ends with a truce. In a deal between the opposition and President Yanukovich brokered by European Union officials, the president agrees to hold elections by the end of the year and accepts a weakening of the presidency. The opposition wants him to step down immediately, but signs the agreement nevertheless. Russia, however, refuses to endorse the deal. After the agreement, Parliament passes a series of measures that illustrated Yanukovich's weakened position. It votes to free former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko from prison and exonerate her, which will allow her to run for election, grant amnesty to anti-government protesters, and annul constitutional amendments passed in 2008 that expanded the power of the presidency. (Feb. 22): Yanukovich flees Kiev on Feb. 22, and an interim government is put in place. The next day, Parliament votes to give speaker Oleksandr Turchynov the authority to fulfill the responsibilities of the president. Yanukovich, however, insists he remains in office. Parliament also appoints Arsen Avakov as temporary interior minister. The interior ministry oversees the police. (Feb. 24): Avakov issues an arrest warrant for Yanukovich, citing the deaths of civilians during the protests. Both the military and the Party of Regions, Yanukovich's party, release statements condemning the deadly crackdown on protesters. The statements indicate that the country may avert a civil war and edge toward stability. (Feb. 27): Demonstrations against the turn of events in Ukraine break out in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, a pro-Russian region in eastern Ukraine. Masked gunmen, believed to be ethnic Russian extremists, take over several government buildings and raise the Russian flag. The gunmen refuse to answer questions about their allegiance or who is commanding them. (Feb. 28): Similarly clad gunmen appear at two airports in Simferopol. There are no reports of violence by the gunmen, but officials fear a separatist revolt may break out. The Black Sea Fleet, a Russian military base, is located in Crimea, and acting president Turchynov warns Russian troops not to intervene. Russia denies any involvement by its military. Meanwhile, in a speech from Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia, Yanukovich declares that he considers himself still to be the president of Ukraine, and calls his ouster a "gangster coup." However, he says he believes Crimea should not seek independence from Ukraine. It is his first public appearance since he fled Ukraine.
World's Most Wanted Man Arrested (Feb. 24): Drug cartel kingpin Joaquin Guzman Loera, also known as El Chapo, is apprehended in the resort town of Mazatlan, Mexico, by Mexican marines and U.S. agents. Federal prosecutors want Loera brought to the U.S. to face several charges. However, lawyers for Loera seek and receive an injunction against his extradition. (Feb. 25): A federal judge in Mexico sets Loera's trial in motion. Loera faces several organized crime and drug-related charges. If he is found guilty, Loera will face up to 40 years in prison.