Just as quickly as they began, the Ukrainian debt restructuring talks appear to be over. On Saturday, Kiev agreed to a debt restricting plan with debtholders like Franklin Templeton, PIMCO, and Blackrock as part of the $40 billion IMF bailout agreed to last month. Ukraine has agreed to a debt-swap in exchange for liquidation from the bailout fund, instead of once again renegotiating to secure a longer government bond maturity. Ukraine is essentially buying back its own debt. The Finance Ministry reported that the move would save up to $15.3 billion in savings on debt payments.
The IMF loan did not just clear the air with international creditors, however. It also tripled the amount of gas it asked for from Gazprom and Russia, according to a statement by Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak. According to him, Naftogaz has already successfully contracted the amount that it needs for the coming month, as part of the larger “take-or-pay” clause that locks Ukraine into importing specific volumes of gas depending on ability to pay.
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- The election in Kazakhstan looms on April 30 and while this was unscheduled and meant to catch opposition leaders off-guard in election preparation, it is popularly seen as a referendum on Nazarbayev’s most recent tumultuous period as President of Kazakhstan. While Nazarbayev’s foreign policy is widely seen to be the most successful out of any Central Asian state, this lack of domestic legitimacy will undoubtedly hurt his chances at securing a stronger hand in negotiation on many fronts.
- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has called for a pulling back of weapons from the front in eastern Ukraine, but noted that the Minsk II Accords only account for the pulling back of weapons under 100mm. Heavier weaponry like tanks are not covered under the ceasefire agreement. Lavrov’s statement mirrors a statement by officials in Kiev at the disconnect.
- The Re-election of Uzbek strongman Islam Karimov has upset Western human rights activists, who are pointing to the egregiously dubious 91.08% turnout for the presidential election, with Karimov winning some 90.39% of the vote. Activists like Steve Swerdlow at Human Rights Watch point to how Karimov is essentially propped up by Western largesse in the form of weapons sales and courting for military bases by both Russia and the United States.
- NPR has an interesting interview with Gary Samore at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where he reports on what is coming to be known as the Iranian N-deal, and arguing that the technical details show evidence of significant compromise for both parties. He further noted the sustained ability of Western NGO’s as well as offices like OFAC to monitor procurement of equipment and materials internationally.
- Six government soldiers were killed in artillery shelling in eastern Ukraine over the weekend, in what is blamed as an attack by pro-Russian separatists and is being hailed by the media as yet another violation of the Minsk II accords, whose main stipulation was a nominal ceasefire between separatist and Ukrainian government troops. While four were killed in what is considered to be a small arms attack, the last two died due to a mine explosion.
- The CIS Council of Foreign Ministers held an annual meeting to address border security and disaster preparation issues, preparing for several multilateral consultations to be scheduled in the coming year. External borders are likely to be a predominant issue considering how nervous Central Asian states are at the prospect of expanding religious violence from Afghanistan as well as the burgeoning drug trade.