Rebels Obtain Russian Tanks, Shoot Down Ukrainian Plane

Any semblance of trust that had existed between Ukraine and Russia during this past weekend has quickly evaporated after reports emerged that tanks provisioned by Moscow rolled across Ukraine’s borders, apparently under the command of rebel forces. Ukrainian officials have reported that rebels are now in possession of three Russian tanks and an assortment of other vehicles, labeling the incursion as “unacceptable.” The tanks crossed the border near Luthansk, and moved to Horlivka, where they were engaged by Ukrainian forces. The addition of armor to a rebel force already armed to the teeth is unlikely to turn the tide in the rebels’ favor, though it is certain to prolong the fighting, perhaps inevitably. The Ukrainian forces operating in the region have claimed the destruction of a portion of the armor column, although the fact that rebel forces controls large swathes of Ukraine’s eastern border with Russia make its ability to replenish its resources a potent one.

The Ukrainian military suffered another measurable setback this past weekend as rebel forces shot down a Ukrainian transport plane near the city of Luthansk. The attack, which was carried out with anti-aircraft machine guns and RPGs, claimed the lives of 49 Ukrainian soldiers. The attack was the second shooting down of a plane in less than a month, and demonstrates the unlikelihood of order being restored in a near future. The Ukrainian government had sent delegations to meet with Russian and Western delegations in both St. Petersburg and Brussels, and although pleasantries were exchanged and many deals seemingly “brokered,” Russia-backed separatist forces are far from capitulating, and violence far from reaching its end.

News Briefs: 

  • Reporters Without Borders announced that access to YouTube and Google has been revoked within Tajikistan. Tajik internet users have been unable to access Google since earlier this week and YouTube since 2010. Foreign websites are not the only ones to have recently been censured by Dushanbe, as sites such as the Tajik independent news outlet Tojnews have also been censored. Internet freedom in Tajikistan has been increasingly restricted over the last two years, as authorities move to enact even stricter controls over the internet.
  • The inhabitants of small cities and rural villages in eastern Afghanistan have been the target of intimidation campaigns launched by Taliban-affiliated groups designed to discourage them from voting. Wardak, the capital of a province for which it is named, is situated an hour away from Kabul and has been the home of violence directed at dissuading the populace from voting. The Wardak governor’s compound was recently rocketed, and eleven voters in nearby villages had their fingers cut off as retaliation for voting.
  • The Iranian government has sent military personnel into Iraq to aid the Iraqi government as it seeks to drive ISIS, an al-Qaeda affiliate currently wreaking havoc throughout Iraq, out of the country. The Iranian government similarly claimed that negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 could culminate in a lasting agreement by as early as July 20, and that the current crisis in Iraq could provide an opportunity for the United States and Iran to collaborate in an unprecedented fashion on matters of security.
  • The New York Times profiles the Taliban’s successes and failures over the last few years. While the report describes the group’s military accomplishments as “modest,” it breaks down the financial successes of the Taliban in developing a booming opium trade, illegal mining operations and extortion rackets. The group’s financial success has offered many in the Taliban an alternative motivation to continue fighting.

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