Fears of another cold war seemingly allayed, Russia and the United States have renewed talks surrounding bilateral space cooperation. Shortly after the first US sanctions were doled out as a response to Russia’s annexation and activities that were perceived to fan the flame of separatism in eastern Ukraine, many news outlets began to speculate over just how Russia may retaliate against the United States. Many wondered if Russia would cut off access to the International Space Station in 2020, when the current international treaty, to which both nations are party, is set to expire. Nevertheless, it seems that these speculations have been for not, as it is expected that both sides will soon announce “joint projects regarding the ISS.”
Oleg Orlov, the Deputy Director of the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscosmos), stated that initiatives that date back to the “tensest days of the Cold War” will not be abandoned as a result of recent tensions between the White House and the Kremlin, and that a renewed focus on scientific research, particularly by that of the two nations’ crews, would be emphasized. U.S. sanctions, which had drawn the ire of many in Moscow, have been described by Orlov as merely a political gesture meant to appease bureaucrats in Washington that will soon be withdrawn. Expansion of the ISS is expected to continue, with an additional Animal Science module expected to be developed within the next few years.
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- Iran spent more than $26 million last year on border security to stem the flow of opium from Afghanistan, a growing problem throughout Central Asia. This includes new border posts and lengths of barbed wire across the 1,200 mile border with Afghanistan and Pakistan. General Ali Moayedi, Iran’s anti-narcotics police chief, gave the Washington Post a tour of its border facilities. Last year alone, 209,000 hectares of poppies were planted, an increase of 36%, producing an estimated 5,500 metric tons of opium.
- A Kyrgyz citizen, Khairullozhon Maatnov, has been charged with hampering the investigation into the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. He was described by prosecutors as a friend of the two brothers who carried out the attack, Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, in the bombing that killed three and injured 260 people. Matanov has pleaded “not guilty” of lying to prosecutors and deleting computer files. Three other men, including two Kazakh nationals, face criminal charges for hampering the investigation as well.
- Turkish president Abdullah Gul met with his Turkmen and Kyrgyz counterparts in Ankara yesterday, and declared that Turkey is reading to transfer natural gas between Turkmenistan and Europe, a significant development as most Western-moving natural gas and oil must move through either Russia or Iran, bypassing the Caspian Sea. But with the development of new undersea pipelines that will pass through Caucasus states and into Turkey, another alternative has arisen for the supply of European oil and gas. However, the project, still in its nascent diplomatic stages, has yet to attract any major oil companies.
- Azerbaijani firm SOCAR (State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic) and Russian Rosneft have entered a joint venture that allows for the two firms to cooperate on the exploration and production of oil and gas projects within Azerbaijan and Russia. Igor Sechin, executive chairman of Rosneft, said the deal would facilitate cooperation, and allow for the development of the energy sector in Siberia and Russia areas along the Caspian Sea.
- 181 people have been killed in the battle around Slovyansk thus far, including 59 soldiers, according to Ukraine’s acting prosecutor general, Oleh Makhnitskiy. The new administration in the capital claims that armed separatists are terrorists and has been accusing Russia of providing training and weapons to the militias. Ukrainian officials urged civilians to remain indoors as the operation moves into its “active phase.” Simultaneously, a Ukrainian border guard base in Luhansk became the scene of a 17-hour gun battle, when hundreds of militants attempted to overrun the outpost.