Russia has officially ruled out withdrawing from Crimea and gifting the land back to the Ukrainian state, the Russian Defense Ministry reported today. The statement likely will come as hardly a shock to most observers, and was coupled by a statement reaffirming the claim that the region is one “of the Russian Federation” and “not up for discussion.” The Russian army began military drills earlier this week involving nearly 50,000 troops. The Russian Defense Ministry further announced that it would soon begin to transport bombers from bases within Russia to a base in Crimea. The move, ostensibly, is in anticipation of war games to be held near the borders of Lithuania and Poland.
The maneuvers appear to include activity in the Arctic, where reports show that Russia has launched an additional set of military maneuvers involving an additional 38,000 Russian troops. Though officially uncertain, it is likely that the purpose of the drills is to test Russia’s ability to rapidly deploy and defend areas of the Arctic specifically, and on the mainland more generally.
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- Fresh off of reemerging into the public eye, Vladimir Putin announced plans to visit Kazakhstan later this week. Initially Putin had been scheduled to meet with Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev last week, but abruptly cancelled the meeting along with several others as he disappeared from the public eye for nearly 10 days. It’s unclear what led to Putin’s absence, though Kazakh sources told US media last week that Putin had been sidelined by the flu.
- Industrial giant Ferrostaal will soon begin work on the largest wind farm in Mongolia. The project is slated to cost nearly $115 and will be comprised of 27 wind towers with an “installed capacity” of up to 54 megawatts. The project is expected to generate approximately 52 megawatts to the Mongolian electrical grid, according to sources close to the deal. Mongolia is overly reliant on fossil fuels and is seeking to diversify its energy supply.
- New European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini announced that Peter Burian, the current Slovak Ambassador to the United States, will take over Central Asia for the EU. Slovian was raised behind the iron curtain and studied in St. Petersburg State University, where he presumably learned Russian. He has since held numerous high ranking diplomatic positions, though noticeably none in Russia or Central Asia.
- The Belarusian economy is expected to benefit from the removal of non-tariff barriers upon its integration into the EEU. The organization that generated the poll, the Center for Integration Studies of the Eurasian Development Bank (EDB), arrived at its hypothesis by polling 530 Russian, Belarusian and Kazakh export professionals. Currently, the main barriers for companies looking to export to Belarus are the VAT tax on fuel, limited insurance guarantees and “operational restrictions.”