After much speculation, Russian President Vladimir Putin has made another public appearance, ending the rumors of his sickness or demise that prompted many news articles over the weekend. This initial appearance is a state visit from Bishkek by President Almzbek Atambayev of Kyrgyzstan. The hashtag #Putinumer spread over Russian twitter users. The huge amount of speculation shows how dependent the Russian regime is on the image of one man. Some Kremlinologists even were fearful that there was a coup.
The Kremlin has rescheduled all of his cancelled public appearances, including a visit to Kazakhstan that was originally planned for last week. Scheduled now for March 20, Putin will be meeting with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Belarussian President Alexander Lukahsenko to discuss the expansion of the Eurasian Economic Union.
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- Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has not been able to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table ahead of a key visit to Washington DC, which would have been an important “deliverable” ahead of the visit and a major step towards progress for Ghani’s new government. Ghani has sought the help of China, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia in reach out efforts to the Afghan Taliban, and the cooperation of Islamabad is seen as the main factor that contributes to this round’s legitimacy.
- Despite the signing of the Minsk II Accords, fighting continues to rage near the Donetsk airport, particularly centered in the Spartak district. The ceasefire seems to be broadly holding in the rest of the region, but separatist fighters report that “not a single day has been quiet here since the deal,” reporting that the militia has seen nine deaths total since pen touched paper. Moscow still denies any direct or indirect military involvement in the war.
- The Obama Administration announced it is planning to keep troops in Afghanistan going into 2016, abandoning plans to have all troops out of the country this year and bowing to pressure from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to keep a troop presence. The decision will likely allow troops to remain in the country until late next year. President Obama will likely use a visit to Washington by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to announce his decision on a new withdrawal timeline.
- President of Tajkikistan Emomali Rahmon has appointed his son, Rustam Emomali, to head a newly created anticorruption agency, entitled “State Agency for Financial Control and Measures Against Corruption.” The younger Emomali has been in charge of the country’s Customs Agency since 2013 – this follows a reshuffling of Tajik government agencies and is above all other things, quite ironic.
- Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s advisor on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said that a breakthrough was imminent on the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India) pipeline project. He made these remarks in Islamabad yesterday, citing assurances by the Afghan government of the project’s security. He noted progress with India on water treaties has made his country more amenable to progress on the TAPI pipeline.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin confirmed yesterday that he was apparently ready to put his nuclear forces on alert as he annexed Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula last year as preparation for a Western intervention. He noted he specifically cabled European and American leaders not to get involved, adding “That’s why I think no one wanted to start a world conflict.” These remarks were made for a documentary entitled “Crimea: the Road to the Motherland,” and it is unclear when these remarks were made during the eight-month long production period.