Russian-backed Ukrainian separatists of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic claim to have captured the Donetsk city airport, although officials in Kiev deny these reports. If true, the claim would signal the first significant territorial advance by the rebels since signing the cease-fire pact. The pact has mostly been considered a nominal one, with near-daily violations occurring. It is unclear if Russian authorities condone the current breakdown, given their presence at an ongoing peace conference between separatists and Ukrainian government officials in Astana.
The leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, Aleksandr Zakharchenko, said that he intended into press his offensive and return territory lost to government forces. New weapons have also been seen in the possession of separatists, including the Buratino (“Pinocchio”) that fires a vacuum bomb rocket from tank chassis.
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- Uzbek President Islam Karimov has been nominated for re-election in Uzbekistan. The decision to renominate him was unsurprisingly unanimous, as during his last “election,” in 2007 international monitoring organizations said that Karimov failed to meet any standard for democracy because there was no real opposition. None of the parties in the newly-formed Parliament oppose Karimov.
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- Iran has lowered the budget expectations for oil to $40 a barrel as government revenues decline. Finance and Economy Minister Ali Taybnia announced that the expectations have been lowered from a base price of $72 to $40, noting that most Gulf countries are pricing $50 oil for 2015, and there will be a large scale halt in new and possibly existing projects as costs become prohibitive for the Iranian economy. It budgeted $100 a barrel for 2014.
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