More sanctions against Russia approved by US

US President Obama has decided to increase sanctions against Russia by targeting large banks that support large energy and defense firms. Instead of targeting individuals connected with Russian support of operations in Ukraine and Putin’s inner circle, this new move is far more sweeping. According to White House statements, it will not cut off entire sectors of the Russian economy from international commerce, the new measures restrict access to American debt markets for Russian energy firms and their financial backers.

Some of the targets were Rosneft, the state-owned oil company and largest oil producer, and Gazprombank, the financial wing of gas giant Gazprom and additionally its natural gas producer Novatek. These sanctions were coordinated with European leaders, who met in Brussels yesterday to discuss their own package of penalties against Russia. European leaders decided to forego punitive measures and focus on how to block loans for new investments in Russia by European businesses.

The decisions were made in the wake of American intelligence reports that Russia had not cut off the flow of foreign militia fighters and weapons across the border to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, who are currently holed up in the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk.

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News Briefs:

  • After John Kerry’s brokering of a vote audit between the opposing candidates for President in Afghanistan, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, vote counting has continued this week. Early vote counts still put Ashraf Ghani ahead of his main competitor Abdullah Abdullah, but articles in the West are noting how closely the country came to war in the past week: with Abdullah’s backers preparing to take over the centers of government in at least three provinces and occupy the presidential palace. Ashraf Ghani has praised the proceedings as getting the election back on track.
  • Kyrgyz President Almazek Atambaev meets with Turkmen officials, including Rashid Meredov, to discuss Ashgabat setting up an embassy in Bishkek. The new embassy will open later this year. This could represent a larger effort to stem Kyrgyzstan’s own inner political turmoil by solidifying relations with neighbors, especially in light of a deteriorating border relationship with Tajikistan. The agreement also included provisions to change visa controls. Turkmenistan is currently the only country in the region that requires other citizens of Central Asia to obtain a visa before entering. The agreement would actually allow this to be possible for Kyrgyz citizens in Bishkek.
  • Kazakhstan’s aviation industry is one of the fastest growing markets in the world with compound annual growth of over 22.3% for international flights. The slowing of Kazakh economy, ever since the crash of the tenge, has slumped that growth down to between 7% and 9%. The Kazakh national air carrier, Air Astana, recently made a deal with Bombardier, a Canadian aircraft OEM, to modernize its fleet with its C-Series narrowbody jets.
  • Numerous Uzbek Russian speakers are pondering emigration to Russia due to a new law that passed the Duma offering citizenship to ethnic Russian populations. Following the March annexation of Crimea, Putin publically promoted his “Russia doctrine” that essentially promised protection of all ethnic Russian populations throughout the world, and further promised that anyone hailing from the former Soviet Union, provided that they speak fluent Russia could renounce their current citizenship to claim Russian citizenship. While the Uzbek government remains on tense terms with Moscow, Uzbek Russian minorities still consider themselves Soviet and by extension, Russian.
  • Tajikistan is aiming to bolster the status of its cement industry in 2014. The Tajik-Chinese run Huaxin Gayur Cement Co. built a new plant in September of last year that will contribute to a near doubling of the country’s cement output in 2014. Also contributing to the project is the Yovon cement plant, as well as additional plants throughout Dushanbe.
  • Chinese police have begun posting warning posters throughout the country that urge civilians to “watch out for bearded terrorists.” The posters leave little doubt as to who the target of the posters is, and has already generated controversy throughout the primarily Islamic western region, where ethnic and religious tensions have been steadily rising over the last few years, having culminated in violence in many instances.

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