The already caustic Russia-Ukraine relationship has worsened yet again as a Ukrainian military offensive ripped into areas of the country’s east plagued by fighting and partially controlled by pro-Russia rebels. The violence, which had ostensibly drawn to a halt, albeit only temporarily as the two sides agreed to a cease fire, has erupted anew with Ukraine’s president going as far as to lambast the rebels as “parasites” and justify the aggressive military offensive as a “right to defend his country. Petro Poroshenko, the recently elected president and chocolate factory tycoon, may be feeling emboldened following his government’s signing of an agreement that draws them closer to the European Union, and provides hope for the flailing Ukrainian gas industry as it nears default and contemplates declaring a state of emergency.
Ukrainian military action has not only ended any potential treaty between Russian-backed rebels and officials in Kiev, but has also drawn the ire of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Though unsurprising, the renewed offensive has led the Kremlin’s chief tenant to threaten an intervention in order to curb Ukrainian aggression in a move to “protect the interests of ethnic Russians,” a group which constitutes a large amount of the population of eastern Ukraine. It’s uncertain whether threats made by Putin will carry any weight, or result simply in heightened tension and little action. The Russian leader has been a vocal critic of the Ukrainian government’s actions in eastern Ukraine, and for a considerable amount of time refused to recognize Ukraine’s newly elected government as legitimate, opting instead for former President Viktor Yanukovych, who many believed was little more than Putin’s lackey in Kiev, despite the former president’s attempts to backtrack.
Meanwhile, talks in Berlin between Russian and Ukrainian diplomats are set to resume on July 5. The multilateral negotiations are aimed at reestablishing the cease fire in a way that would be “stable” and “long-term,” though the return to violence in Eastern Ukraine strips these statements of credibility.
- More refugees stream into Afghanistan as the Pakistani military continues its quick advance through North Waziristan. The Zar-e-Azb operation, which is aimed to clear out the TTP stronghold, began with airstrikes last month and now has continued with a ground advance. The Pakistani military commanders have now called for a “house-to-house” search for terrorists, and thus have displaced over 500,000 people. This has caused an unprecedented situation of refugees streaming across the border into Afghanistan in the wake of the offensive.
- Official relations between Afghanistan and its northern neighbors remains quite cool with a low volume of communication, but a new report found EurasiaNet and published by the Afghanistan Analysts Network, contends that the burgeoning drug trade across borders is sanctioned, managed, and protected by officials on both sides of the border, citing an “economic connection that has demonstrated resilience since the fall of the Taliban… it is the only true cross-border economic activity that is truly supported by all relevant state and non-state actors.” They do, however, acknowledge various official cross-border economic agreements such as the TAPI pipeline.
- The detained Tajik researcher Alexander Sodiqov will be meeting with his lawyers after more than a week of detainment. The Tajik government said they would allow Sodiqov’s lawyers to meet with him on July 3. Sodiqov is accused of high treason and spying after speaking with civil society activists in Tajikistan’s city of Khorugh, in the south. He was conducting fieldwork research as part of his doctorate with University of Exeter and University of Toronto.
- A reputed Kyrgyz crime boss, Aziz Batukaev, has been detained in Russia after he was released from prison last year under false pretenses. He was found and arrested in Russia’s Republic of North Ossetia, and Kyrgyz officials are now working on his extradition to Kyrgyzstan to face charges for murders of a Kyrgyz lawmaker and an Interior Ministry Official. Prison officials released him last year from Bishkek, saying he was suffering from leukemia.