In a telephone conversation with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, President Vladimir Putin asserted yesterday that Russian troops would be able to “take Kiev in two weeks if necessary.” This created quite a stir just ahead of the NATO summit planned to start this morning in Wales to discuss the unraveling situation in Ukraine. The Kremlin did not deny the remark, which was published in an Italian newspaper on Monday. Instead, the Kremlin denounced Barroso for unveiling details of what was supposed to a private telephone conference. They additionally asserted that the words were taken out of context.
Apparently Putin’s assertion was in response to Barroso’s query about whether Russian troops were inside Ukraine. NATO Secretary General Rasmussen endorsed a rapid reaction force of 4,000 troops for Eastern Europe, but the real discussion on what a moribund NATO will do to respond to the Russian presence in Ukraine is forthcoming.
Russia’s presidential administration and ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov said “it was ready to make public its contests to remove all misunderstandings. As this diplomatic debacle occurred, Ukrainian forces lost the rebel-held town of Illovaisk recently and within the past few days have suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of alleged Russian forces. With the arrival of the Russian army, much of the Ukrainian army is in a full-on retreat and Kiev is beginning to prepare for a defensive war.
Additionally, there are conflicting reports of a “ceasefire process” being agreed to between Poroshenko and Putin. The details are still as of yet unclear, as both Poroshenko and Putin have released some basic details but repudiated that any agreement exists when asked directly.
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- Chinese authorities in the restive province of Xinjiang have recently made waves by offering 10,000 yuan rewards to Han Chinese that intermarry with members the Uyghurs, the local Turkic minority. The payments for intermarriage would be doled out yearly, for a maximum of five years, and would be supplemented by additional benefits and health care for married couples. Members of the World Uyghur Congress have decried the policy as an effort to force Uyghur assimilation in areas where they still predominate.
- Kazakhstan is on high alert after a container of highly radioactive material went missing in the southwestern Kazakh region of Mangystau. Caesium-137, a radioactive isotope of caesium, is formed through nuclear fission of uranium in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons, and is one of the more problematic products of fission due to that it is quick to move and spread. The container is believed to have fallen off a truck and has yet to be found.
- Turkmenistan has quickly become an important energy partner of China. The already hefty amount of 40 billion cubic meters of gas supplied to China is set to increase to nearly 65 BCM by 2021. Chinese officials have lauded their Turkmen peers, stating that the strength of their economic relations will likely translate to stronger cooperation in other areas as well. Turkmenistan is eager to position itself as a strategic partner for a number of energy-hungry nations, including many in the European Union and China.
- Russia and Mongolia have agreed to sign a visa-free travel agreement when the Russian leader visits Ulan Bator today, September 3. The agreement will be just one of the 13 agreements set to be signed, and will clear the way for the two sides to resume “advantageous business, cultural and tourist relations.” Russia has expressed interest in the rich deposits of minerals found throughout certain parts of Mongolia.
- Violence in the troubled Indian region of Kashmir broke out again, with Indian forces reportedly killing three Kashmiri rebels. The fighting is said to have come about when Indian military officials received word that rebels were hiding out in southern Kashmir’s Rapjora village. The violence is not atypical for the region though clashes have recently diminished in number.
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called for stronger ties among Persian speaking nations. The Iranian president, who will soon visit Tajikistan, referenced important historical collaboration between Tajikistan and Iran while saying that cultural, as well as economic and political ties should strengthen. While the idea of a pan-Persian union may seem initially attractive to leaders on both sides, divisive areas such as religion – Iran is Shia whereas Tajikistan and Afghanistan are Sunni – could prove to be insurmountable.