Clashes escalate in Donetsk, gas deal signed

Despite the successful election of Petro Poroshenko, clashes in the Donetsk Oblast have increased. Separatist troops attacked the Donetsk airport and were repelled by government forces. Vladyslav Seleznyov, the spokesman for the Ukrainian army’s current operations in the east, said that “pro-Russian separatists are attacking Ukrainian forces’ checkpoints all the time in Slovyansk,” a noted separatist stronghold that has even declared itself to be a separate republic and lobbied to rejoin the Russian Federation.

While this all occurs, most foreign attention is focused on the gas talks currently taking place in Berlin, where Ukraine has made its first payment in months to Russia’s OAO Gazprom, transferring $786 million over after Poroshenko signed an association agreement with the EU, approving a loan for the repayment of their significant gas debt to the Russian company. The Ukrainian government had previously declared that it would “never accept” Gazprom’s price of $500 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas.

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News Briefs:

  • The last US prisoner of the Taliban, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, was exchanged for 5 Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay over the weekend. The exchange occurred following indirect negotiations between the US and the Taliban, with the government of Qatar acting as intermediary. Qatar is taking custody of the five Afghan detainees who were held at Guantanamo. The released jihadists were all senior Taliban officials, some with direct ties to Mullah Omar. Sgt. Bergdahl was taken captive five years ago by the Haqqani Network during a patrol and has been used extensively in Taliban propaganda videos.
  • Kamchi Kolbayev, a reputed Kyrgyz crime boss, will be released from jail just 18 months after his arrest. He was arrested in December 2012 after being extradited from the UAE and sentenced to five and half years in jail on charges related to extortion and drug trafficking. His prison term was then cut to three years without explanation according to Interior Minister Abdylda Suranchiev. The US Government is lobbying for the Kyrgyz government to not release mob boss, and are still actively pursuing his arrest, despite the fact he is still in jail. In a statement on May 29, the State Department offered a $1 million dollar reward for “information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of the criminal network of Kamchybek Kolbayev.”
  • Turkmenistan has secured $2.5 billion in loans for LNG refineries from Japan and South Korea’s export credit banks. Japan’s Toyo Engineering said that it formed a consortium with three firms from South Korea that have been contracted for $3 billion worth of projects relating to these complexes. The economy of Turkmenistan has risen at an annual rate exceeding 10 percent in recent years, mostly due to their vast reserves of natural gas. The plant will be built in the Turkmenbashi district near the Caspian Sea and will make petrochemicals and gas derived chemicals such as ethylene and polyethylene.
  • RFE/RL’s Uzbekistan desk published a useful article detailing a roundtable on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) on the group’s potential for instability in Central Asia as foreign forces complete a large drawdown of troops later this year. The IMU is active in northern Afghanistan as well, even fighting alongside them during the 2001 operations to retake Kabul by the Northern Alliance. Notably, their list of martyrs (published on their website) lists mostly Afghan Uzbeks, and not Uzbek nationals. Recent incidents on the Turkmen-Afghan border also point to their resurgence in the area.
  • The government of Afghanistan boycotted the planned visit of Afghan army officers to Pakistan after border tensions escalated over the weekend. The decision was made after a National Security Council meeting chaired by Hamid Karzai. The incidents protested were several instances of shelling and violations of Afghan airspace by Pakistani planes who were engaging in reconnaissance of the border region of Waziristan as talks continue between the government and the TTP.
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