Newly elected Ukrainian President and former chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko addressed the UN General Assembly earlier this week. Poroshenko, in a cautionary address directed principally at the United States and the European Union, warned that removing sanctions currently levied against Moscow too quickly could lead to a ramping up of Russian involvement in eastern Ukraine, and continued “meddling” on behalf of the Kremlin. Poroshenko further stated that any removal of sanctions should not be considered until the Ukrainian military regained complete control of its territory, a task whose duration remains uncertain. The Ukrainian president’s statements included assurances that the worst of the fighting was over, though Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk insisted that some Russian forces remain throughout eastern Ukraine, though reports confirm the lion’s share of forces have left Ukraine.
As fighting winds down in eastern Ukraine and a cease fire agreement is brokered, Kiev is expected to remain focused on strengthening its military, with expenditures rising from 1% to 5% of overall GDP by 2020. On the domestic policy front, anti-corruption efforts will likely feature prominently in Poroshenko’s first term, with more than 70% of civil service staff expected to be replaced, and an additional 60 reforms planned. The measures are designed to institute large-scale judiciary and economic reform, and are similarly expected to be instituted by 2020.
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- The World Bank has slashed its growth forecast for the Russian economy – amid a flurry of Western-backed sanctions and capital flight. 0.3% growth is expected in 2015 and 0.4% is expected in 2016, well under its baseline predictions (as well as those released by the Russian Economy Ministry) of 1.5% and 2.2% respectively. The biannual report is pessimistic even if geopolitical tensions evaporate fairly quickly, stating that “the economy is at the threshold of recession and will remain there for a while.” Economic growth for the first two quarters of the year slowed to zero and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development downplayed expectations for growth as well.
- The upcoming summit on the legal status of the Caspian Sea in Astrakhan next week will be a turning point in relations between the Caspian littoral states, and where most of them hope to settle the ongoing dispute over maritime borders. The last summit took place in Baku in 2010. The five states of the Caspian have agreed to mostly share median boundaries, with most agreements worked out bilaterally between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. Iran is pushing for equal control among the five states of the Caspian waters.
- A dozen people, including three policeman, were killed and over 100 were injured in attacks in the Xinjiang region yesterday, in Bugur. All of them were killed during a bomb attack at a police station in Yengisar – but details are confused as to the exact number of casualties. A curfew was imposed on Tuesday, and attacks started on Thursdaymorning, targeting government buildings and police stations.
- Thousands have been jailed in Uzbekistan, according to reports from Human Rights Watch, on charges of sedition. The government of Islam Karimov has apparently jailed many human rights activists, journalists, religious clerics, and other critics – with the report focusing on 34 of them after some were kidnapped from abroad and locked up following a short trial. Uzbekistan has been proactively cracking down on dissent since the Andijan revolt in 2006, where hundreds of protesters were shot dead. The report estimates a total of 10,00-12,000 political prisoners in jail, but the exact figure is difficult to determine.
- President of Azerbaijani national oil firm SOCAR has paid a visit to Turkmenistan, to meet with Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, to underscore the importance of bilateral relations between the two states. Items of interest on the agenda were points of cooperation in the energy industry, including prospects for supplying Europe with energy through Turkey, thereby sidestepping Russia.