World News: Sri Lanka, Ukraine, Burkina Faso, and a Russia-North Korea Summit

[Content Note: Terrorism; death; injury.]

There are a number of major international news items today to which I wanted to direct your attention. The four stories here are obviously not the only significant news from around the world, but these are particularly on my radar today; please feel welcome, as always, to share additional items in comments.

1. There was a major terrorist attack in Sri Lanka yesterday, with a series of explosions at churches and hotels, leaving at least 290 people dead and 500 injured. At the Guardian, Haroon Siddique has an excellent summary of what we know so far:
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks but Sri Lanka's defence minister, Ruwan Wijewardene, said the culprits had been identified and were religious extremists. He said suicide bombers were responsible for the majority of the morning's bombings and that the wave of attacks was the work of a single group.

The prime minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, said security services had been "aware of information" of a possible attack up to 10 days ago. "We must also look into why adequate precautions were not taken," he told reporters on Sunday.

Twenty-four people have been reported to have been arrested so far.
I am just so sad and so angry. My condolences those who lost loved ones in the attack. My sympathy to those who were injured. There just aren't adequate words to convey the depth of my grief and rage and compassion and all the other emotions that swirl together after a thing like this happens.

There are a number of fundraisers which are being promoted on social media to raise money for survivors of the blasts and/or victims' families. I have not been able to verify the legitimacy of any of them, and I urge you to be patient if you are considering making a donation to a fundraising campaign. It usually takes a couple of days to establish which are the most reliable campaigns.

2. Ukrainian comedian Volodymyr Zelenskiy has won the presidency in Ukraine's election, the BBC reports: "Zelenskiy has scored a landslide victory in the country's presidential election. With nearly all ballots counted in the run-off vote, Mr Zelenskiy had taken more than 73% with incumbent Petro Poroshenko trailing far behind on 24%. ...Mr Zelenskiy, a political novice, is best known for starring in a satirical television series Servant of the People, in which his character accidentally becomes Ukrainian president."

There are, of course, grave concerns that Zelenskiy will not be able to effectively stand up to Russian aggression, which is a continuing and urgent crisis.

Just this past January, the Secretary of Russia's Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, threatened that Ukraine may split apart and lose its statehood, blaming the Ukrainian government in Kiev for that, despite the fact that Russia has put Ukraine under sustained military, technological, infrastructural, and informational attack for years now.

Vladimir Putin will almost certainly try to exploit Zelenskiy's inexperience to further undermine Ukraine, as swiftly and devastatingly as possible. I hope that Zelenskiy is up to the task, and fear that he isn't.

3. Speaking of Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has announced that Putin and North Korea's Kim Jong Un are scheduled to meet by the end of this month: "Last week the Kremlin said that Kim Jong Un would travel to Russia this month, announcing the first Russia-North Korea summit since Kim came to power in 2011."

4. Eastern Burkina Faso has fallen to militants, reports Ruth Maclean at the Guardian: "Relative to its Sahelian neighbours, Burkina Faso was until recently considered one of west Africa's more peaceful and moderate countries. But over the past two years the authorities have lost control of large regions to a spreading insurgency. Conflict has escalated dramatically, researchers say. Over the past five months, the civilian death toll has risen by 7,000% compared with the same period last year."

What's happening in Burkina Faso is largely because of corrupt government: "The armed groups are painted as 'terrorists,' and it is true they are backed by extremist groups. But in the east, where conflict is rising fastest, the groups are made up of ordinary Burkinab├ęs taking up arms against a 'predatory' government seen as taking land and mineral wealth while offering nothing in return."

It's emblematic of the sort of unrest — whether expressed at the ballot box or the end of a gun — we're seeing around the world right now, in response to unfettered government avarice and the exploitation of average people. The rejection of oppressive corruption simmers everywhere.

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