A humanitarian convoy carrying refugees out of the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk was completely destroyed yesterday as it came under intense, unannounced rocket fire. The attack has quickly been attributed to pro-Russia separatists fighting in the region, though separatist groups have been quick to deny culpability and have even suggested that the attack never took place. The convoy was traveling through the region waving white flags, while transporting civilians. The death toll has not been finalized as of yet, though dozens are believed to have been killed, including several women and children. The point of origin of the attack, as well as its perpetrators, are likely never to be definitively identified, as what has ensued since the attack took place has been a series of finger-pointing, with the Ukrainian military insisting that the attack was deliberate, and rebel forces claiming that the attack was carried out by the Ukrainian military.
Luhansk, the locus of the Ukrainian military campaign, has recently been recovered, at least in part, by Ukrainian military forces. Reports have even begun to emerge that rebel fighters have switched into civilian clothing in order to evade detection by the Ukrainian military as it begins to occupy the city. Sporadic violence, as well as concerns surrounding the availability of basic utilities such as electricity and water continues to plague the city, and talks of a cease-fire currently being held in Berlin have not had a measurable impact thus far.
Follow us on Twitter: @SteppeDispatch
- Sergei Lavrov, after one day of negotiations in Berlin, said that an agreement has been reached on the delivery of humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but no progress has yet been made on the ceasefire between government forces and separatists. Colonel Andriy Lysenko reported that insurgents had been firing rockets and mortars on buses carrying civilians from Luhansk, but spokesmen for separatist groups deny these allegations, calling them “propaganda.” After the first round of talks with ministers from Germany, France, and Ukraine in attendance, Lavrov reported that negotiations will continue on the issue of a ceasefire even as Kiev continues its offensive.
- President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev has announced a downsizing of the cabinet. This is in the wake of the creation of a new Energy Ministry, and preceding meetings have shown that he plans to cut the number of ministries from 17 to 12, and the number of state committees from 54 to 30. With new Energy Minister Shkolnik in charge of the new Energy ministry, it remains to be seen how he will impact change.
- Kyrgyz Minister of Energy and Industry Osmonbek Artykbayev said that the country has imported 146 million kilowatt-hours of electricity from Tajikistan, with the cost per kilowatt hour being 2 cents, the price initially being about 3 cents. The import of electricity still will not cover a deficit of 1.6 million kilowatt hours, which was brought on by the need to export water to Kazakhstan in exchange for fuel for an impending energy crisis this winter.
- Kazakhstan is set to increase its grain exports to Russia amidst sanctions on EU and US sourced food products. The opportunity to increase these exports will likely strengthen the burgeoning economic union between Kazakhstan, Russia, and Belarus, as well as trial members such as Kyrgyzstan and Armenia. Russia is highly dependent on food imports, and thus every year has to supplement its 90-95 million tons of grain with exports from other countries such as Kazakhstan.