Both Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for a return to normal relations yesterday during a diplomatic summit just after a larger boycott of the Victory Day parade celebrating the end of WWII on Saturday. Despite the boycott, two dozen other world leaders flew to Russia including guests of honor Xi Jinping of China and Pranab Muukherjee of India, as well as presidents of Egypt, South Africa, Cuba, and Venezuela.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel took the opportunity to apologize for Nazi war crimes in Europe and Russia, but added at the end of her statement during the press conference that Russia was on the verge of breaking international law in Ukraine. However, both leaders acknowledged in their statemetns that the February peace deal reached in Minsk, known colloquially in political circles as the Minsk II Accords, was the only way to resolve the crisis peacefully.
Politically, the guests of honor and the subsequent invitation of Russian troops to the Chinese Victory-in-Japan celebration suggests that Russia’s pivot to the east is largely paying off.
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- Kyrgyzstan has officially joined the EEU, the Russian presidential office announced, joining Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, and Armenia. Shortly after the signing ceremony was completed, several trade deals were also announced – including one that agreed to the creation of a common electricity market in the EEU and the liberalization of motor trucking services, likely to be a blow to Kyrgyzstan’s economy, which is dependent on both remittances from Russia and re-exporting Chinese goods to Russia using the trucking industry.
- Kazakhstan may have gained an economic reprieve at last. Nursultan Nazarbayev’s statements of reassurance regarding another devaluation of the tenge were finally believed. The ruble’s strong value has closed the gap between the two currencies and created projections that believe that any weakening will likely be no more than 10 percent in the coming years, about half of previous forecasts. Nazarbayev had previously pledged to avoid any devaluation as a public promise to not reduce purchasing power of the public.
- Afghan officials have reported that IS militants have been aiding a Taliban offensive in Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan. He reported that these included militants from Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkey, and Chechnya as fighting continues in the northern province. While this is likely true, the announcement’s timing correlates with visits to other countries by Ashraf Ghani to likely drum up support for its war effort and to play on fears of a rallying and spread Islamist movement.
- US Secretary of State John Kerry is set to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and his counterpart Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov tomorrow to discuss ongoing unrest in Ukraine, Syria, and Yemen. The meeting will take place in Sochi, former site of the Russian Olympics. RIA Novosti reported that John Kerry will be bringing new proposals on settling the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Moscow said it does not expect a “breakthrough” from Kerry’s visit, however.
- Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko presided over his own low-key Victory Day events last week, using the opportunity to lambast the Russian-separatist occupation in the eastern part of the country – and clearly Poroshenko did not attend the parade in Moscow over the weekend. Poroshenko has been drumming up support for his war effort and attempting to maintain the solvency of the government despite his embattled support base, while simultaneously pursuing reform efforts.