Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has proclaimed that Russia has undertaken an incursion onto Ukrainian soil, and ordered that a draft of Ukrainian citizens be instituted as the situation in Eastern Ukraine worsens. Pro-Ukraine media sources within Russia have estimated the invading force at 15,000, although these estimates have been denied by a number of Western news sources, including the New York Times. The fact that Russia has spearheaded a new offensive within Ukraine has, nevertheless, sparked a series of debates within European society surrounding the imposition of another sanctions regime on Moscow. The main arguments seem to revolve around Moscow’s control of nearly a third of Europe’s gas supplies.
Some EU countries, including Bulgaria, rely solely on Moscow for gas, and are concerned that a harsh round of sanctions could pose a threat to their ability to function as a nation. The fact that Russia has its finger on the on/off switch does indeed present a number of challenges, as Brussels cannot simply diversify its base of suppliers overnight. In order to wean off Russian gas supplies, a time frame of ten years, as a minimum, has been put forward by independent observers. Reliable partners are also in short supply. Iran, while seemingly eager to help Europe diversify, is far from capable at this juncture, and lacks the ability to develop the necessary infrastructure so long as US and EU sanctions remain in force. Other would-be partners that border the Caspian Sea include Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, both of which, while rich in gas, have faced harsh criticism for human rights records that make even that of Russia seem clean. The debate surrounding the use of Russian gas appears, unfortunately, to be largely moralistic, and leaves the EU in a tough situation even as officials begin to lobby for stronger sanctions.
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- Gasoline shortages in Uzbekistan has led to the closure of many stations across the country and causing gas rationing at locations that are still selling gas at the fixed price of $0.85 (2000 soms) per liter. The government had announced it would halt any subsidization of gas prices in the capital and the surrounding region. State energy companies decline to comment to RFE/RL.
- A former Kyrgyz MP has been shot to death in Bishkek. He had ties to organized crime and was fired in July from his position as regional MP to Karakol in 2012, after authorities discovered he had a criminal record. Altynbek Arzymbaev was shot last Tuesday.
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will be paying an official visit to Russia to attend an upcoming summit on the Caspian Sea, which will be attended by all the Caspian littoral states. The 4th Summit of the Caspian Sea states will be held in Astrakhan, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif is paying a visit to Moscow today at the invitation of Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.
- Iran signed an agreement with Azerbaijan last week to explore for oil in the Caspian Sea in an effort to strengthen its hand ahead of the upcoming summit against much larger rivals like Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Russia. The purpose of the September Summit will be to determine the sovereignty and zones of influence within the sea, as well as how to share the wealth in the case of joint projects.
- Alexei Miller, chief of Russian energy giant Gazprom, has visited Bishkek today to discuss its current crisis after Uzbekistan cut off its supply of gas. Uzbekistan stopped piping gas immediately after the sale of KyrgyzGaz to Gazprom in April. Miller is expected to meet with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev to plan for major improvements to Kyrgyzstan’s gas pipeline system in the south.