Francis will probably say something newsworthy again soon, but in the meantime, here is more ruminations on the situation in Ukraine.

In an interview with McClatchy DC, former U.S. ambassador Michael McFaul, just returned to the U.S. says: Putin is "a shrewd leader who wants to show the world a modern, new Russia but too often operates out of what the ambassador called an 'exaggerated' sense of U.S. power in the world." Putin sees the US as “fomenting instability and revolution in the Middle East, in Russia and, now, Ukraine.” (Side question: is it prudent to change ambassadors in the middle of a crisis?)

C.J. Chivers in Kiev (NYTimes) talks to locals about people missing in the aftermath of the protests. Some 600 were reported missing; many have now been found; but a couple of hundred have not. Kievians tell Chivers that in the midst of the chaos there may have been Russian agents/troops involved in rounding up people. This goes along with stories about men breaking up pro-Kiev demonstrations in other parts of Ukraine. (Fact? Fiction? Paranoia?)

At Foreign Policy, Leon Aron, argues that foreign adventures keep Putin's approval ratings up when everything else is in a downward direction. "As the economy staggers along at 1.5 percent growth, as capital flees the country at a record pace, and even as nearly half of Russians agree that the ruling "United Russia" party is the 'party of thieves and swindlers,' Putin can still point to his wins on the world stage -- from saving Syria to shielding Iran from U.N. sanctions after 2010 to, more generally, returning Russia to its former position as a power that counts, one that happily wields its U.N. Security Council veto -- to convince his compatriots that the motherland is in good hands." Hmmm! Sounds vaugely familiar.

International New York Times: More on the anti-Semitism issue in the Ukraine-Russia stand-off. (File in use and abuse thereof.)

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Margaret O’Brien Steinfels is a former editor of Commonweal. 

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