March 2014 Current Events: World News
Here are the key events in world news for the month of March 2014.
Russia Dispatches Troops to Crimea (Mar. 1): Russian president Vladimir Putin dispatches troops to Crimea, citing the need to protect Russians from extremist ultranationalists, referring to the anti-government protesters in Kiev. The Russian troops surround Ukrainian military bases. (Mar. 3): Russia is reportedly in control of Crimea. The move sparks international outrage and condemnation. President Obama calls the move a "breach of international law." (Mar. 4): In a press conference, Putin says he doesn't see an immediate reason to initiate a military conflict but Russia "reserves the right to use all means at our disposal to protect" Russian citizens and ethnic Russians in the region. In the middle of the crisis, Russia test-fires a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile, but says it was scheduled before the turmoil began and is not related to the political turmoil. Meanwhile, U.S. secretary of state John Kerry travels to Kiev in a show of support for the interim government. He visits shrines erected in memory of slain protesters and pledged $1 billion in aid and loans to Ukraine. He scolds Putin's military incursion into Crimea. "It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve," he says. "That is not 21st century, G-8, major-nation behavior." Russia is set to host the June meeting of the G8, but other member nations have halted planning for the event. (Mar. 6): The U.S. imposes sanctions on officials, advisers, and other individuals who have been involved in the undermining of democracy in Crimea. The sanctions involve revoking visas for travel to the U.S. for those who hold them and refusing visas for those seeking them. On the same day, the Crimean Parliament approves a referendum, scheduled for March 16, asking voters if they want to secede from Ukraine and be annexed by Russia. "In 2014, we are well beyond the days when borders can be redrawn over the heads of democratic leaders," Obama says in response to the move. Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, threatens to dissolve the Crimean Parliament.
Group Knife Attack Kills 29 in China (Mar. 1): Twenty-nine people are killed when ten men enter a train station in Kunming, a city in southwest China. The men attack people with long knives, injuring 130 others. Chinese authorities believe the attackers are members of a separatist group from Xinjiang in northwest China and refer to them as terrorists.
North Korea Has Legislative Election (Mar. 10): North Korea holds legislative elections. Considered a sham election for the rubber-stamp Parliament, only one candidate appears on the ballot for each district. Not one vote is cast against the government's candidates, and voter turnout is 100%. The elections are held every five years.
Israel Passes Landmark Military Service Legislation (Mar. 12): Israel's Parliament passes legislation eliminating exemptions from military service for ultra-Orthodox Israelis. The issued has long been debated in the country where most 18-year-olds, men and women, serve in the military for up to three years. Ultra-Orthodox students enrolled in seminaries have been exempt in the past. The legislation passes by a 65-1 vote. The law includes a modest quota for drafting ultra-Orthodox students, an adjustment period of three years where increased service would be encouraged and a threat of penalties for draft evasion.
Violent Protests Continue in Venezuela (Mar. 13): Three protestors are shot to death during demonstrations in Valencia, bringing the total number of people killed during demonstrations in Venezuela over the last month to more than 20. President Nicolas Maduro invites student protest leaders to meet with him, promising to listen to them "with respect and affection." However, at the same time, Maduro orders riot police officers to use pepper spray, water cannons and tear gas on thousands of student demonstrators throughout Venezuela.
Crimea Votes to Secede from Ukraine (Mar. 16): Nearly 97% of voters in Crimea choose to secede from Ukraine in the referendum. (Mar. 17): The Crimean Parliament declares the region independent and formally seeks annexation by Russia. Putin says the vote is legal and binding, and in a statement the Kremlin says, "The referendum was organized in such a way as to guarantee Crimea's population the possibility to freely express their will and exercise their right to self-determination." Obama tells Putin that neither the U.S. nor the international community will recognize the results of the referendum. He says the referendum "violates the Ukrainian Constitution and occurred under duress of Russian military intervention." On same day, Obama imposes economic sanctions on 11 Russian officials and Putin advisers, including Crimean prime minister Sergey Aksyonov, who are "responsible for the deteriorating situation in Ukraine." The sanctions freeze the assets held in the U.S. and ban Americans from doing business with those sanctioned. (Mar. 18): Putin signs a treaty stating that Russia has annexed Crimea, reclaiming territory that was part of Russia from 1783, when Empress Catherine II took it over from the Ottoman Empire, to 1954 when Nikita Khrushchev transferred the region to Ukraine. "Crimea has always been an integral part of Russia in the hearts and minds of people," Putin says. After signing the treaty, Putin gives a speech that both defends his move, denounced internationally as a land grab, and lashes out at the West. "Our Western partners have crossed a line," he says, referring to the West's support for Kiev. "We have every reason to think that the notorious policy of confining Russia, pursued in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today." The move certainly jeopardizes Russia's relationship with the U.S. and Europe, complicates any hopes for a peace agreement in Syria and casts a cloud over the talks over Iran's nuclear program. (Mar. 21): The European Union and Ukraine sign a portion of the EU Association Agreement-the same deal that former President Yanukovich refused to sign, sparking the unrest. The section that is signed lends Ukraine political support; the economic part will be enacted once a new president is elected. (Mar. 24): Ukraine withdraws its military from Crimea, citing a threat to the soldiers and their families. Meanwhile, on the same day, the members of the Group of 8 industrialized nations announces that they have suspended Russia from the group and move the upcoming meeting from Sochi, Russia, to Brussels. (Mar. 27): The UN General Assembly passes a resolution that declares Russia's annexation of Crimea illegal and describes the referendum on the issue as "having no validity." One hundred countries vote in favor, 11 vote against, and 58 abstain. The resolution has no enforcement power, making it symbolic. Nonetheless, it clearly sends Putin a message. On the same day, the International Monetary Fund agrees to loan Ukraine $18 billion as long as the country satisfies several demands, and the U.S. Congress approves a $1 billion aid package. The aid will boost the faltering economy and help it meet its debt obligations.
Syrian Army Recaptures City from Rebels (Mar. 17): Syrian government troops, with the help of Hezbollah, recapture from the rebels the city of Yabroud, which is on the border with Lebanon and has been a key route for supplies from Lebanon. It is the last rebel stronghold in the area, handing the opposition another defeat. The fall of Yabroud follows that of Zara, another strategic city on the Lebanese border.
529 Sentenced to Death in Egypt (Mar. 24): After a two-hour trial, a judge in Matay in Egypt's Minya Province sentences 529 people to death for the killing of a police officer during the protests against the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi in August 2013. About 400 people are sentenced in absentia. It is a stunning verdict that met with international condemnation. Fearing reprisals from the military-led government, few Islamists dare to speak out or demonstrate against the verdict.
North Korea Fires Ballistic Missiles; Exchanges Fire with South Korea (Mar. 26): North Korea test fires two medium-range ballistic missiles capable of striking Japan, South Korea, and China. The missiles land in the sea between North Korea and Japan. It is the first such test since 2009. (Mar. 30): The country threatens to conduct "a new form of nuclear test for bolstering up its nuclear deterrence." The moves prompt an angry response from South Korea. "North Korea should bear in mind that if it ignores the stern demand from the neighboring countries and the international community and carries out a nuclear test, it will have to pay a price for it," the South Korean Foreign Ministry says in a statement. (Mar. 31):North and South Korea exchange artillery shells across their disputed western maritime border.