Separatist militias in the Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk have retreated to fortified barricades in anticipation of advancing government forces through the eastern provinces. Key bridges into the towns have been blown up, and separatist leaders complain of having been abandoned by Russia. Ukrainian government officials said that they succeeded in sealing the previously porous border with Russia, preventing the entry of more militia and weaponry. Poroshenko and his new defense minister Valeriy Heletey said there would be no more unilateral ceasefires with separatist troops – after a 10-day ceasefire saw false hope that the conflict would be resolved peacefully.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s silence has been questioned by many, especially coming on the heels of remarks last week that he would protect ethnic Russians wherever they may be. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said simply that “a quick end to the bloodshed is in our common interest.” Ukrainian officials have been busy setting up blockades to isolate separatists in the cities. Analysts have noted that despite the quick advance of government troops, pitched battles in the big cities may last weeks. With Donetsk as a city of 1 million and Luhansk with more than 400,000 – many civilians have fled, hoping not to be caught in the midst of the hostilities.
Western leaders are still busy denouncing Russia and Ukrainian separatists, with the latest voice to join the chorus Angers Fogh Rasmussen, the secretary general of NATO. He contended that Russia was playing a “double game” in Ukraine, issuing statements endorsing peace while massing its forces along the border and smuggling arms to separatists. He ended by encouraging more sanctions against Russia and separatists.
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- Tajikistan has begun investigating the possibility of uranium deposits being located throughout the country. The French enterprise AREVA has expressed considerable interest in exploring Tajikistan for uranium, and Tajik officials have also gone as far as to say that they would look into the precious metal as part of the country’s 2015-2025 energy agenda.
- A tremor measuring 4.9 on the Richter scale shook the northeastern Indian province of Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday night, though no causalities or significant damage have since been reported. The Kashmir region is prone to earthquakes, and was most recently hit by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on October 8, 2005.
- Vox has published two charts illustrating the failure of the war on opium production in Afghanistan. The first of the charts shows UN data on drug interdiction in Afghanistan, demonstrating the inefficacy of the United States in curtailing drug trafficking and seizing opium. Only 354,712 kilograms were seized out of a total of 33,200,000 kilograms. In the second chart, total eradication of opium is shown to also be at record lows, with the US only managing to destroy 3.7% of all land devoted to poppy cultivation.
- Afghanistan has announced that it plans to eliminate transit fees on electricity to be imported from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan via the proposed CASA-1000 electricity transmission project. This provides a good omen for the slow-in-coming multinational energy project, and provides an alternative to Central Asian nations burdened by the 2.5 US cents per unit fee for electricity currently levied by the Afghans, who had been begun to look to Russia to buy its excess energy. Specifics in the reduction in cost weren’t released, though Pakistan had offered .56 cents/unit without much success.