The year that was 2014 – Part 1

Alex Mitchell
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2014 has been full of news – good news, bad news and weird news. In the Opinions section, we try to cover a breadth of topics, working closely with Sean Weaver’s News team to stay on the ball. Here, I give you my summary of the key events that took place, and our responses to them.


The start of 2014 saw pro-European Union protests turn violent in Ukraine’s Capital Kiev. Protesters occupied Maiden Square in Kiev which later became known as Euromaiden.

The protests started in November 2013. On 1 January, a 15,000-strong torchlight march was held. By 12 January, the numbers at Euromaiden had reached 50,000 people protesting President Victor Yanukovych’s decision to step away from signing a trade deal with the EU in favour of closer ties with Russia.

As the clashes mounted with escalating violence and loss of life, Yanukovych was losing his grip. His cabinet and the Prime Minister had resigned, and the opposition were making moves in Parliament to impeach him.

Political prisoner Yulia Tymoshenko was released from prison and addressed protesters in Euromaiden whilst Yanukovych had disappeared. Parliament voted on a new speaker and an interim Prime Minister and Cabinet, with the protesters at Euromaiden vowing to stay in the square until the presidential elections.

Yanukovych later appeared on television in Moscow, still defiant in his belief that he was President of Ukraine. Though a new President was elected in the form of Petro Poroshenko, Ukraine was on the brink of civil war, with Russian separatists leading the charge in Crimea and eastern Ukraine.

Crimea held an independence referendum deemed illegal by Ukraine but fully supported by Russia, which saw Crimea become a part of Russia.

24 March: An emergency meeting of the G8 was held. The UK, USA, Italy, France, Japan and Canada suspended Russia from the G8.

27 March: The UN passed Resolution 68/262 – recognising Crimea as part of Ukraine and rejecting the validity of the referendum.

ISIS – Islamic State extremists

2014 saw Iraq thrown into another crisis with Islamic State claiming the country’s second largest city, Mosul. The group controlled territories across Syria and Iraq, declaring a ‘caliphate’.

ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) has gone by numerous names, including ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and IS. Their ultimate aim is to establish a new Islamic state.

The group apparently separated from Al Qaeda in February. Over 60 countries are directly or indirectly waging war against ISIS. A worldwide caliphate was declared by the group: a single, one-world government with religious, political and military control over the Muslim population worldwide.

2014 will be remembered, in particular, for the IS beheadings. American journalist James Foley, TIME magazine journalist Steven Sotloff, American aid worker Peter Kassig, British aid worker David Haines, and later Salford taxi driver and aid worker Alan Henning (pictured above).

Lone extremists acting in the name of ISIS took the fight to Australia when Man Haron Monis took a café with 18 people hostage. After 16 hours and 5 hostages having escaped the police raided the café which resulted in the deaths of 3 innocent civilians and Man Haron Monis.

Israel-Palestine conflict

July saw tensions rise in the Middle East once again when three Israeli teenagers were kidnapped. Rockets were launched from both sides with an Israeli ground offensive which began on 17 December.

The total conflict lasted 50 days with 66 soldiers and 6 civilians killed on the Israeli side and 557 militants and 1,523 civilians killed on the Palestinian side.

The British press was accused of bias towards Palestine. Both Sweden and Britain voted to recognise the state of Palestine.

Malaysian Airlines

Saturday 8 March: Flight MH370 from Kuala Lumpur International to Beijing Capital International went missing. Last contact was made by flight MH370 at 01:19 local time, whilst flying over the South China Sea. The plane disappeared off radar at 01.21.

The military tracked the plane as it deviated across the Malay Peninsula, leaving the military range at 02.15 local time, whilst over the Andaman Sea, 200 nautical miles northwest of Penang, North Malaysia. The plane was carrying 12 crew and 227 passengers from 15 nations – including civilians and high profile HIV/AIDS researchers.

A multinational search effort began in the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea where the flight signal was lost. The search was later extended to the Strait of Malacca and Andaman Sea.

Analysis from multiple agencies shifted the focus of the search to the southern part of the Indian Ocean, west of Australia. Australia took charge of the search effort from 17 March. The search of the seafloor, which started in October, is expected to last 12 months. This will be the most expensive search of its kind at AU$52m (£27m).

Malaysian Airlines would suffer another loss on 17 July, when Flight MH017 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down over Eastern Ukraine, killing all 15 crew and 283 people on board from 10 nations. 194 Dutch passengers comprised the largest nationality aboard the plane.

Intelligence gathered pointed towards a surface-to-air missile fired by the Russian separatists who controlled the Donbass area. The Russian government blamed the Ukrainians.

The Dutch Safety Board is currently leading the investigation with a full report expected in August 2015.

King of Spain abdicates

19 June: King Juan Carlos I of Spain abdicates in favour of his son, who ascends to the throne as King Felipe VI.

King Juan Carlos was selected by Generalisimo Franco to be the next head of state, bypassing his father Juan de Borbón, and was expected to continue Franco’s authoritarian rule. Juan Carlos became King on 22 November 1975, two days after Franco’s death.

The first monarch since 1931, however, Juan de Borbón did not abdicate in favour of his son until 1977.

Once enthroned, King Juan Carlos I introduced sweeping reforms to dismantle the Francoist regime and begin the transition to democracy. This lead to the Spanish constitution of 1978, which established a constitutional monarchy.

King Juan Carlos I served as president of the Ibero-American States Organisation, representing over 700 million people in the 24 member nations of Spain, Portugal and the former American colonies.

Conchita Wurst wins Eurovision

May saw the Eurovision Song Contest take place in Copenhagen. It just wouldn’t be Eurovision without a bit of controversy – which this year came in the form of Austria’s entry, a bearded drag queen named Conchita Wurst. Her song ‘Rise Like a Phoenix’ surprised the bookies and pundits by taking the title with 290 points.

Accepting the award, Conchita said, ‘We are unity and we are unstoppable.’ This led to Russia throwing around the idea of a ‘straight’ song contest.

About Alex Mitchell

Political observer and current affairs addict. I observe - I analyse - I debate

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