NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe Philip Breedlove told reporters on the sidelines of a conference in Greece that the alliance would welcome the withdrawal of Russian troops from the Donetsk region of Ukraine, but that no “major improvements” have been seen. Despite this proclamation, this past Saturday Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered 17,600 troops to return to their bases around Rostov-on-Don, a Russian city close to the Ukrainian border. NATO has consistently countered Russian public announcements of troop withdrawals, stating that Russian border troops mostly maintain their positions despite being ordered home.
Additionally, Mr. Putin will meet with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Milan today over new allegations made by Ukrainian Defense forces that Russian drones are being used as artillery spotters for separatist forces. After 12 soldiers were wounded in the past 24 hours, outside observers suspect the six-week truce has run its course. The Donetsk airport is still a battleground, and separatist forces have also attacked the cities of Debaltseve and Bakhmutivka.
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- Activists in Bishkek protesting hikes in energy prices due to government tariffs have been detained. All were members of the Jany Muun (New Generation) movement after a rally of about 50 protesters demanded that energy minister Osmonbek Artykbaev be held responsible for the 50% price hike. Government efforts were defended after the arrests due to the fact that higher prices are attempting to conserve energy for the harsher winter months.
- O&G Engineering group Penspen was awarded the contract to conduct a feasibility study of the TAPI pipeline by the Asian Development Bank. The pipeline will run from Turkmenistan’s Galkynysh Gas Field to underserved markets like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. Technical feasibility is expected to take six months to complete after which the firm will provide ongoing support to the ADB during an official investor selection process.
- The withdrawal of the ISAF from Afghanistan will mean additional appropriations in Tajik government budget for border security, said President Emomali Rahmon. He cited the need to develop these borders but also expressed faith in the fact that Tajikistan is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) that “guarantees financial, military-technical support to security of the CIS Southern Borders.”
- The Supreme Court of Ontario in Canada has arrested some 60% (or $47 million dollars) of shares in Centerra Gold, which operates the Kumtor gold mine, the second largest producer of gold in the world. The Court noted that as a result of the decision, Kyrgyzstan is prohibited to sell, recycle, exchange, appropriate, or pledge that $47 million. This was after Centerra appealed to the both the Supreme Court of Canada and the Federal Arbitration Court of Moscow to oversee the dispute in revenue sharing between the Canadian mining conglomerate and the Kyrgyz government.
- Kazakhstan has banned the Islamic group “Takfir wal-Hijra” (in English, Excommunication and Exodus), a radical Islamic group banned in Russia and the West. The prosecutor-general in charge of the case, said that any association or involvement in the group’s activities are illegal. Takfir wal-Hijra is an older group that started in Egypt in the 1960’s and is believed to have links to Al Quaeda and ISIS. Security forces in Russia detained 14 suspected members of the group last November.