We lead today’s i with a story from our foreign bureaux: the killings in Ukraine, as a Moscow-backed President tries to crush a mass uprising by citizens who want closer ties with us in the EU and are disgusted by rampant corruption. As the death toll passes 70, with many hundreds wounded, Europe’s seventh most populous country wobbles on the precipice of much wider conflict. EU countries are dependent on imported energy and on Ukraine as the gateway for Russian gas.
Both Brussels and Moscow are culpable of meddling in Kiev, but one has much the stronger resolve.
US disengagement has presented cautious Europeans with a challenge: are you willing to accept Uncle Sam’s role as the continental counterweight to Russia? The answer is a resounding no, despite Europe’s economic and diplomatic power. While military entanglement is unwise, hesitancy poses its own dangers – it took the EU days to impose sanctions (travel bans and asset freezes) on Ukrainian officials responsible for the killing. Russia has a greater willingness to use brute force on its doorstep to reassert itself as a great power. Through this, combined with billions in trade, its sphere of influence grows.
The best that Ukraine can hope for is a truce that holds, and a new political compact involving the departure of President Viktor Yanukovych – requiring the intervention of his oligarch backers. The alternative could be appalling.
If you find today’s Sudoku slightly harder, you are not losing your edge. “As a puzzle addict,” wrote reader Athene Walker, “may I plead for a killer sudoku?” Her plea was endorsed by Eddie Elgar and Mike Barton (“only the idoku is taxing”). In response to such requests, my colleague Stuart Price has twizzled the difficulty nozzle on his steam-powered puzzle creator – a device not unlike the machine in Roald Dahl’s short story The Great Automatic Grammatizator. So, you may find the easier one ever so slightly trickier – and the harder one occasionally fiendish. Our other puzzles remain untouched.