Eastern Ukraine in chaos, Mayor of Kharkiv is shot

Pro-Russian separatists in Eastern Ukraine stormed government buildings in Luhansk, the provincial capital of Ukraine’s eastern region. Loyalties appear to have splintered, with local police waiting it out and not participating in the fighting, and the regional leadership and their state police still resisting the growing power of the pro-Russian militias. Among the locations seized were the prosecutor’s office and the television broadcast center.

Regional state police headquarters and administrative buildings were stormed. Most of the unrest has been centered until now in the neighboring region of Donetsk, where towns like Slovyansk have formally declared that they have broken away from Ukraine. Ukraine’s acting president Oleksandr Turchynov issued an angry statement denouncing local police in the Russian-speaking regions for inaction.

Meanwhile, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu confirmed with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that Russian forces along the border had pulled back and would not invade Ukraine, despite ample evidence from satellite surveillance by NATO that no such withdrawal took place. Mayor of Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv, Gennady Kernes was shot in the back on Monday and transported to Israel to undergo intensive care. The motive for the shooting is unclear, as Kharkiv is not one of the main areas of unrest. Aspersions have been cast on the shooting, with some declaring it to be the work of Spetsnaz and others suggesting that forces loyal to Kiev could have been behind the attack, with little evidence for either claim.

News Briefs:

  • Over 1 ton of gold in Kyrgyzstan is mined illegally, according to the Deputy Minister of Economy Abylbek Kasymaliyev said at a session of Parliament yesterday. He blamed the lack of licensing of gold diggers for the troubles of the Kyrgyz budget. But according to other experts, Kyrgyz corruption stems from mining licenses authorities and their cooperation with organized crime in the rural Fergana Valley.
  • Kazakh authorities are investigating claims that volunteers from Kazakhstan are fighting Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine. Local separatist militias have claimed that most of their volunteers are from Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan, and other parts of the former Soviet Union. There are similar reports of Kazakh nationals fighting in Syria, a repetition which has startled the Kazakh government in an effort to avoid a full-blown Russian intervention.
  • The potential deals between Russia and Iran on electricity and oil may undercut sanctions placed on both regimes by the United States. The electricity deal is the second collaboration under negotiation between the two countries, and the P5+1 powers are nervous that without such restrictions in place, Iran will pursue its purported goal of developing a nuclear weapon. Officials at the US Treasury Department, which oversees economic sanctions against Iran, did not comment to queries if the deals would violate standing restrictions.
  • A US-financed project to introduce social media to Afghanistan has been a smashing success, reports the New York Times, with the new network connecting Afghans to the internet and “encouraging political debate,” according to statements from the State Department. The company that runs the network, called Paywast (or “to connect” in Dari) currently has over 1.6 million users and has been off US support since 2011.
  • A new Pentagon report has found that corruption in Afghanistan has been contingent upon US support for warlords, relying on private trucking contracts, and providing billions of dollars in other miscellaneous aid. The report was previously undisclosed, but has since reached the press after its publication in February. American forces became dependent on Afghanistan-based trucking companies, finding themselves “trapped in a warlord protection racket.” The report cites these trucking companies, which also employed American-based security contractors, as the primary engine of corruption.

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