Ukrainian defense minister Valery Heletey announced on Sunday that NATO would begin delivering weapons to government forces to, as he put it, “stop” Vladimir Putin. Heletey said he had discussed the supply agreements with NATO defense ministers during the summit in Wales during the first week of September. NATO statements described the shipments as “non-lethal.” When a similar statement was made by Heletey earlier in the month, member states of NATO that were named in his address denied they were sending aid to the government.
Heletey additionally posited that now some 3,500 Russian troops were in Ukrainian territory. The ceasefire brokered last week between pro-Russian separatist groups and the government was strained when heavy artillery shelling outside of the Donetsk airport. Additionally, members of the international monitoring group, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (or the OSCE) were fired upon, and government forces report that rebel forces around the city are not observing the ceasefire and have been repelling attacks around the airport for days.
Despite the breaking of the ceasefire in practice, other agreements made between pro-Russian groups and the government went off without a hitch. A prisoner exchange took place yesterday, under the principle of exchanging 65 prisoners for every 65 prisoners the other side offers. The US and EU are drafting new sanctions targeted at the Russian energy industry, including their exploration and production in the Arctic and Caspian Seas.
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- China and Tajikistan have announced that they have broken ground on the China-Central Asia Gas Pipeline (CCAGP), the first such effort to reach deep into Central Asia. The new line will run from Turkmenistan to China by way of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The longest stretch of the pipeline will run through Tajikistan, likely moving thorough the country’s north before entering entering Kyrgyzstan. Turkmenistan has become an increasingly important energy partner of Beijing’s, and the construction of new pipelines forms part of a greater Turkmen strategy to diversify its energy partners and reduce reliance on Moscow.
- Brigadier General and Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan has accepted an invitation extended by his Turkmen counterpart, and will visit Ashgabat this week. The relationship between Iran and Turkmenistan has been largely amicable, though Iran recently announced that it will cease relying on Turkmenistan as a gas importer, a move that came as a surprise to many and suggested that Iran will either look to forge new partnerships with regional nations or that a great deal of faith has been placed in the ability of the P5+1 talks to unencumber Iran economically.
- The Afghan Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) recently published a report demonstrating that the number of suicides in Afghanistan exceeds that of violent crimes on a yearly basis. The amount of suicides in Afghanistan has grown substantially over the past several years, with more than 8,500 suicies registered this year alone, usually self-immolation or poisoning. Reasons for the rise are legion, though rampant corruption and lack of faith in a viable future for Afghanistan have been labeled as causes.
- The Kyrgyz government played host anew to Gazprom’s Management Committee Chairman, Alexey Miller. Miller visited the country to meet with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev, and continue ongoing work to outline and establish Gazprom’s future role within the country. Exploration operations began recently, investment in the reconstruction of Kyrgyz gas transmission and distribution networks has increased, and emphasis has been placed on preparations for the looming winter.
- The Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan railroad will be inaugurated between November and December, in the Iranian month of Azar, this year. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani recently concluded a five day trip to Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, and spoke about efforts to foment cooperation throughout the region. The railroad will extend 677km and connect the oil and gas rich countries of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan with the Persian Gulf.