Yesterday, a Malaysian airlines passenger jet crashed in rebel-controlled part of eastern Ukraine near Donetsk. Responses have been numerous and contradictory, some Ukrainian officials immediately pointed fingers at separatists, some at Russia itself, and others at “terrorists.” The plane was a Boeing 777, and according to statements released by US officials, the plane was shot down by a missile, killing all 298 people on board. The wreckage can be found near Torez in Donetsk Province.
The plane, which was on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was flying at an altitude of 33,000 feet when the missile hit. Radar systems can detect surface-to-air targeting missile systems that track aircraft before a missile launch, but it is unclear if one of these was responsible for the attack, or if it was, who provided the weaponry. Pro-Russian separatists in the region pledged safe access for investigators seeking to enter the crash zone for the Malaysia Airlines flight, but the Ukrainian government alleged that rebels were keeping everyone but emergency workers away from the site.
The United Nations Security Council is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the strike, in addition to other mounting concerns that Russia is becoming actively involved in the civil strife afflicting Ukraine. The Ukrainian government alleged that one of its military planes was down in its own airspace by Russian fighters later that same day, which would be the most direct involvement of Russian forces in the war if proven correct. Andryi Lysenko, the spokesman for Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, also alleged a growing body of evidence pointing to facts that Russia may have provided tanks, weapons and training to separatist rebels.
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- Talks between foreign ministers of Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have resolved little, according to statements from Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldayev. Tajik Foreign Minister Sirodzhiddin Aslov assured him that the problem on the borders will be resolved soon, adding that it was necessary to restore faith and trust between the two countries. This is the second major border clash in 6 months. Kyrgyzstan is demanding assurances from Tajikistan on types of military equipment allowed to be used in the disputed border region, referring to the incident in early January when mortars were used.
- Afghanistan’s Kabul International Airport was attacked yesterday in yet another brazen assault that puts the future of the country at risk. Rockets struck the buildings before dawn and then militants seized control of two buildings under construction. Kabul Police Chief Mohammed Zahir Zahir said that four of the attackers were killed and the attack was halted before any civilians or aircraft were damage. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack.
- Russia and partners from the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) are jointly carrying out military exercises in Central Asia. The exercises aim to train forces for the engagement and neutralization of extremism. Entitled Rubezh-2014, the troops are under supervision from representatives of Armenia and Belarus. The countries party to the exercises are Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan – as well as junior members Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Belarus.
- The Trans-Eurasian Information Superhighway Project (TASIM) has been delayed once again. The project aims to establish an underwater internet fiber-optic cable, and has been hampered continuously by unclear border agreements delineating the Caspian into five zones managed by the five states that border it. Three of the littoral states to the Caspian agreement – Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia have agreed already but Turkmenistan and Iran have not yet reached a consensus.
- The Guardian has a captivating photo essay of the lives of Tajik immigrants living in Russia. Some 1 in 3 Tajik men work abroad, legally and illegally in Russia and send money home to their families. See the pictures here.