Ukraine: Russian Armor, Exchanges of Fire Threaten Truce

The Ukrainian military reported that columns of Russian armor have rolled across the Russia-Ukraine border and advanced towards rebel locations in the country’s southeast. Movement of Russian forces within this region of Ukraine had previously been criticized by Ukrainian and Western observers and labeled as a “blatant violation of Ukrainian sovereignty” undertaken to resupply pro-Russia rebels based in Donetsk. Accusations have been levied and fighting has largely resumed despite the existence of a cease fire agreed upon by both sides, although which side instigated the return to violence remains unclear.

Separatist forces claim to have fired upon 33 rebel positions throughout the country, claiming the lives of two policemen and one civilian, while Ukrainian military officials recently released statements claiming to have killed more than 2,000 rebels during the course of their operations in eastern Ukraine. The presence of howitzers and other heavy artillery appear to substantiate claims made by the Ukrainian military’s spokesman that the Russian military continues to work to resupply rebel forces in the region, in an attempt to stall Ukrainian military progress and, in some cases, potentially reverse it. The cease-fire struck appears now to be wholly figurative and it’s expected that hostilities will soon resume.

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News Briefs:

  • Vladimir Putin is currently in Beijing to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, where he has engaged in meetings with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, among others. Putin praised the efforts of Chinese and Russian officials to strengthen ties between the regional neighbors, and for the large-scale gas deal that will see Russia supply China with billions of dollars in natural gas over the coming years.
  • Iran announced that it has successfully test flown a  “US-based drone” that bears a striking resemblance to the US Sentinel drone that was downed in Iran in 2011. The Iranian government released a statement announcing the test flight’s success, and promised to later release a video of the event. Iranian scientists claim to have reverse engineered the drone and have announced plans to launch their own production line of drones in the coming years. The subject of drones has long been criticized by Iranian security forces, who accuse the US and Israel of using the drones to spy on Iranian nuclear and military installations throughout the country.
  • Kazakhstan has begun to consider hedging the price of oil in order to protect its economy against a sharp drop in oil prices. Kazakh finance ministry officials have held talks with Goldman Sachs to weigh the pros and cons of oil hedging, though the finance ministry was quick to clarify that no decision has yet been taken. The practice of oil hedging would allow Kazakhstan to lessen potential damage inflicted by a changing global hydrocarbons, a model that Mexico has followed and which has appeared “very attractive” to Kazakh officials.
  • Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Ebrahim Rahimpour is currently in Baku, Azerbaijan for meetings with Azeri officials in order to strengthen ties between the two Caspian Sea nations. The minister made a number of statements assuring the importance of Azeri relations with Iran, and the continued growth of cooperation in cultural, economic and security spheres, though his statements were lacking in details of this cooperation.
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