Petro Poroshenko announced earlier this morning that troops from Russia have been moved across the border, crossing into eastern Ukraine. He cancelled a planned visit to Turkey and a convocation of the national security council was called to devise a response. Ukraine is also formally requesting a meeting of the UNSC, as a leader of the main separatist group in southeastern Ukraine (Luhansk region) said that up to 4,000 Russians have been fighting against Ukrainian government forces.
There is no statement from the Russian government regarding any potential operations, and after months of denying any direct involvement, it is likely that this will trigger another meltdown in relations between Russia, the EU, and the United States. The European Commission is in the process of debating further punitive economic sanctions against Russia. Ukraine contends that Russian troops invaded farther south to open a second front to relieve pressure on Donetsk and Luhansk farther north, where separatist forces are besieged and encircled by the Ukrainian military.
Separatist leader Alexander Zakharchenko took over as prime minister of the Donetsk People’s Republic earlier this month, who had previously said that fighters trained in Russia were being transported into Ukraine to support separatist operations. As negotiations between the two parties (including representatives from Germany and the EU) are ongoing in Minsk, Belarus – Putin has stated that a solution in eastern Ukraine is “not our business, it is a domestic matter for Ukraine itself,” and that Russia’s role was to “support the creation of an environment of trust.” Earlier this week, nine Russian paratroopers were captured inside of Ukraine and government sources claimed they had been a part of a border patrol and entered Ukraine by accident.
Andriy Lysenko, spokesman for the Ukrainian security council, has identified the town of Novoazovsk east of Crimea on the Sea of Azov, as the focal point of the new battle. The Sea of Azov would be the next strategically logical place to take control to support Crimea.
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- The head of the Iranian mission to Tajikistan has announced the visit of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Dushanbe. The two Persian-speaking countries have enjoyed amicable relations, though the forthcoming visit is rumored to spark a new chapter in the two countries’ bilateral relations. The Tajik-Iranian joint economic commission, amongst other ventures, is set to convene shortly, and the two heads of state will be given another chance to dialogue during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s annual summit, to be held between September 12th and 13th of this year.
- European dependence on Russian gas supplies will last for at least another decade. As relations between Brussels and Moscow have soured, talk of a much-needed diversification of European gas supplies has begun to increase, though the reality of the situation seems to limit these possibilities. Europe buys a third of its gas from Russia, and will be unable to supply its markets without Russian gas supplies, as its own need for gas is expected to increase by a third by 2030.
- Turkmenistan has announced the groundbreaking of a $1.7 billion gas-to-petrol complex. The new facility, which when completed is estimated to convert 2 billion cubic meters of gas into 600,000 tons of synthetic octane petrol, is expected to be operational by 2018.
- Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has officially made good on threats to withdraw from Afghanistan’s presidential elections. The previous frontrunner made a series of demands that, if left unfulfilled, would result in his leaving the process behind. The United Nations, in an attempt to salvage the ongoing vote audit, has asked Ashraf Ghani, the other leading candidate, to also withdraw from the audit, in order to ensure the objectivity of audits and avoid the impression that either side has an unfair advantage. Ghani has complied with the request, though whether or not either candidate will accept the results of the audit is unclear.