Ukrainian dignitaries have convened in the eastern city of Kharkiv in order to establish a framework by which peace could be brokered throughout Ukraine. The escalation of violence in Ukraine’s east, not to mention the killing of more than 30 pro-Russia protestors in Ukraine’s southwestern city of Odessa, have placed the country in a precarious position as it seeks to avoid a complete breakdown of the country and, as some have forecast, civil war. The meetings in Kharkiv mark the second such reunion of Ukrainian officials, some of which represent the problematic regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, where the majority of the violence has been concentrated.
The talks have culminated in at least an apparently positive gesture: the passing on to parliament of a multi-point “Memorandum of Understanding to restore order in our country.” The memorandum, though at this stage unclear in its implications, has been rumored to include changes to constitutional clauses which would grant a greater degree of autonomy to the distinct regions of Ukraine. The agreement’s success was also conditioned on the eventual amnesty of all those who have fought against the Ukrainian government, the securing of Russian as an official state language, as well as the complete withdrawal of Ukrainian military from eastern Ukraine. The memorandum has not yet been turned into legislation, though one eastern Ukrainian representative stated that, should the legislation pass, a greater degree of trust could be had between the two sides. Without such trust, “no solutions” will be arrived at.
The success of the agreement is just one of the many uncertainties still hovering over the Ukrainian crisis. As the talks have progressed, Ukrainian forces have continued to re-take swaths of Ukrainian territory that had been occupied by separatist forces, and tensions throughout the country have continued to rise as rumors of the talks’ failure have spread. Pro-Russia forces have begun to openly petition Russia to join the country, and concerns over the supply of Russian gas have become graver as Moscow has made substantive talks contingent upon Ukraine’s payment of the enormous debt it still owes Russia.
- A Tajik diplomat was injured in Kunduz in a gun attack on Saturday. While traveling the Badakhshan province, Consul Rustam Makmudov came under attack and “was evacuated to the Doctors Without Borders Hospital after sustaining injuries to his hand. ” As NATO and ISAF troops are preparing to leave Afghanistan, and with fighting season beginning once more after a particularly long winter, the Taliban has ramped up attacks on both foreign forces and IEC targets. But no group, including local Taliban militants have yet claimed responsibility.
- Kyrgyz and Kazakh authorities are reviewing Kyrgyzstan’s longstanding bid to enter the Customs Union. Kyrgyz economic minister Temir Sariyev is in Astana this weekend with Kazakh Deputy Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev. Kyrgyzstan’s bid has been thrown into turmoil with increasing protests against joining the union from NGOs in Bishkek, as well as the extremely quick turnover of Parliamentary leaders in the Kyrgyz legislature. Despite this, the government appears to be moving forward with the bid.
- In Astana, dozens of Kazakh activists protested the launch of the Proton-M carrier rockets produced by Russia from the Baikonur Cosmodrome base in Kazakhstan. The protesters gathered in front of the KazGharysh, the domestic space agency, petition the agency representative’s to cease using the rockets. The burning rocket fuel creates a toxic exhaust cloud that allegedly damages the environment and causes severe health threats. Last November, Astana demanded $90 million in financial compensation from Russia for a Proton rocket crash.
- The Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhoundi announced he will be visiting China in the coming months to look for financing for the country’s Miyaneh-Tabriz railway. Iran imports most of its railway needs, he explained, purchasing 3,000 kilometers of railway from Turkey and India to integrate the rail system. The Tabriz-Tehran railway distance has been a particularly important project for European investors, and Akoundi reiterated that the rail project is aimed at promotion and enhancement of a potential Iran-Europe transit route.