EUROPE: President Barack Obama is in the Netherlands today, meeting with the Group of 8 leaders—minus Russian President Vladimir Putin—as Western leaders contemplate their stance on Russia’s takeover of Crimea. Obama travels on to Rome for his first-ever encounter with Pope Francis later this week.
UKRAINE: The head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in a speech last week condemned Russia’s incursion and annexation of Crimea, calling it the “Anschluss of the Crimea” and saying Putin “used the tool of the devil—he mixed the truth with falsehood.” Patriarch Filaret Denysenko continued, “I am sure that half-truth from the mouth of the Russian leader that the whole world heard is worse than outright lies—as hidden poison in food is more dangerous than obvious poison.”
AFGHANISTAN: With presidential elections set for April 5, marking Afghanistan’s first democratic transition of power, an attack on the Serena Hotel in Kabul has rattled officials and election monitors. Two lead monitoring missions have pulled their teams following the attack, which killed 9, including a prominent Afghan journalist, his wife, and two children: “Even by the grim standards of the Afghan war, the Serena bloodbath was shocking.” Foreigners have made themselves sitting targets for the Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack, by holing up in fortified compounds like the Serena, away from Afghan communities.
NORTH KOREA: No further word on jailed South Korean missionary Kim Jung-wook or 33 North Koreans sentenced to death for their efforts to set up underground churches. Kim Jung-wook appeared at a press conference in late February to “confess” to his crimes.
NOTE: I’m also traveling to Rome this week (without Secret Service) for a first-ever symposium on religious freedom, then on to the Middle East. Globe Trot will continue as possible with some potential internet disruptions.