In the past week, Russian borders have been redrawn. The Duma and the Crimean Parliament have approved annexation, and fears of war have escalated as the US and EU have slapped sanctions on members of Putin’s inner circle. Arseniy Yatsenyuk, the current Prime Minister of Ukraine, declared yesterday that “the conflict is shifting from a political to a military stage,” claiming further that “Russian soldiers have started shooting at Ukrainian servicemen and that is a war crime.”
While there are reports of a Ukrainian military officer being killed and several others being injured during a confrontation with Russian troops yesterday in Simferopol, it is unclear if the perpetrators were trained Russian troops or Crimean militia dressed in Russian fatigues. Calling themselves the “Self Defense Forces,” this Crimean separatist group has been responsible for several incidents in recent weeks that have been attributed to Russian military.
Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov stated emphatically during a news conference in Madrid last week that military personnel were mostly confined to Russian bases in airports and naval areas. He further added the self-defense forces of Crimea were acting of their own volition – “they take no orders from us,” he protested.
Facts are sketchy, as local officials in Simferopol claim that it was in fact one of their own that was injured by a sniper, not a Ukrainian officer. Officially, the Ukrainian and Russian militaries have agreed to a tentative ceasefire until March 21, a move that aims to prevent hostilities from breaking out in heavily occupied areas. The fact that the shooting occurred just hours after Vladimir Putin delivered a speech emphasizing that “there was not one single military confrontation in Crimea,” is indicative to how unstable the situation within Crimea is.
The Ukrainian interim President, Oleksandr Turchynov, significantly escalated his rhetoric in reaction to news of the attack, comparing Putin’s takeover of Crimea to Nazi Germany’s invasion of Austria and the Sudetenland. This comes after the Ukrainian government expressed its impatience with the lack of real action from the EU, accusing certain member countries of “taking care of business, trade, and economic interests.”
Other groups within Crimea have also expressed their discontent with Russian occupation and the outcome of the referendum – chief among them the Crimean Tatars. Deported en masse from Crimea by Stalin in 1944, they make up roughly 12% of the Crimean population and have formed their own self-defense militias in reaction to the recent crisis, according to statements released by a prominent local leader, Mustafa Dzhemilev. Most recently, they boycotted the referendum, calling it a sham.
- Afghanistan has the potential to become one of, if not the largest exporter of oil and gas among Central Asian nations. Faryab province, a region that borders Turkmenistan in northern Afghanistan is rich in both petrol and gas reserves, with the Deputy Governor of Faryab province, Abdul Satar Baraz stating that the province’s resources could allow the country to “achieve energy self-sufficiency” as well as create employment opportunities and foment ongoing infrastructure development plans throughout Afghanistan. Terraseis, a Canadian geophysical data provider, has been successful in locating oil fields in Faryab, and China’s National Petroleum Corporation commenced production on oil fields in the nearby Sar-e Pol province in January of 2012.
- Mongol News reports on efforts undertaken by the Mongolian government to combat a growing rate of alcoholism and an incidence of liver cancer that ranks amongst the highest in the world. Efforts to curb alcoholism and provide resources to recovering alcoholics range from traditional, therapeutic programs, to publicity campaigns aimed at promoting alternatives to alcohol. The President of Mongolia, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, was petitioned to bring in 2014 with a toast of milk, instead of champagne, and the world’s first alcohol-free nightclub was opened in Ulan Bator in late 2013. Despite these efforts, the World Health Organization has advised the government of Mongolia to limit the availability of alcohol in order to reduce the estimated 40% of the Mongolian populace that is currently addicted to alcohol.
- The International Federation for Human Rights has published a scathing review of Kyrgyzstan’s human rights records, citing “acts of harassment” against members of marginalized communities throughout the country, and calling for an immediate end to alleged persecution. The report highlights the case of Ilya Lukash, a defender of LGBT rights who was forcibly exiled from the country due to his beliefs, and an initiative undertaken by the Kyrgyz parliament to prohibit financing for any NGO that seeks to promote LGBT rights. The request, which was copied and sent to five senior members of Kyrgyzstan’s political and diplomatic corps, calls for an immediate end to all acts of harassment, and a reevaluation of laws prohibiting the operation of pro-LGBT NGOs within the country.
- Eurasia Net reports on the effects of corruption on Tajik farmers. Under existing Tajik law, private ownership livestock is banned in order to eliminate any possible outbreak of disease caused by lack of vaccination. The law, however, includes villages that lie outside of city centers, where the only historical means by which inhabitants can make an income is through profit generated by domestic animals. The legal discrepancy has led to widespread corruption throughout these village communities as villagers have been forced to bribe local police in order for their way of life to continue, bribes that are inconsistent and can rise precipitously without notice.