In accordance with the government meeting’s decision, Ukraine will suspend trade with Crimea within 30 days. As the Prime Minister Arseny Yatseniuk said the suspension will include goods, work and services to and from Crimea with the exception of personal items, socially important foods and humanitarian aid. However, the electricity issue is considered as separate, and will be decided by the Ukraine’s Security and Defense Council. Crimea is now suffering with blackouts after the four pylons supplying the peninsula with electricity were blown up. The power cut affected over 1.6 million people and increased tensions between Moscow and Kiev. In retaliation, Russia suspended coal exports to Ukraine followed by Ukraine saying it would suspend cargo shipments to Crimea.
Russia does not have a direct land access to Crimea and thus uses ferries for supplies to the region. Kremlin is now working to link the peninsula to the Russian mainland by a power supply bridge with cables. Meanwhile, Crimean Tatar leaders threatened to block the sea saying they want to make occupation as expansive and complicated as possible. Crimean Tatars started a land blockade of the peninsula in September trying to draw attention to human rights situation in the region.
The Kiev move comes in the midst of developments in EU-Ukraine and Russia-Ukraine trade relations. As the President Petr Poroshenko held meetings in Brussels, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to suspend a free trade zone based on 2011 free trade deal with Ukraine starting from January 1st. Poroshenko said Ukraine is aware of the restrictions and possible damage in that case, but Kiev is ready to pay the price for “freedom and European choice”. The Russian response, in case Kiev presses ahead with closer ties with the EU, is related to Russia’s opposition to EU-Ukraine free trade pact, saying it could lead to flow of European imports across its borders and damage competitiveness of Russian exports to Ukraine. The EU is also due to extend economic sanctions against Russia over the unrest in east Ukraine.
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- Ukraine banned the Communist party for “political” reasons. Kiev District Administrative Court made a decision for the plaintiff, the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice, who filed a lawsuit in 2014 and requested a ban on Communist party activities in Ukraine. The court ruled that the claim was fully met. According to the lawsuit, the Communist party was accused of activities to amend the constitutional order by force, of damage to sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, propaganda of war, violence, incitement of ethnic hatred and call for the formation of military groups. Back in April, 2015 the Ukrainian parliament passed the law which equated communism and Nazism and banned both regimes and their symbols.
- China is pushing Russia and Central Asia states to cooperate in anti-terrorist activities. Chinese Prime Minister Li Kequiang called Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) members to work closely against the Islamic State and also called for an anti-extremism treaty among the members. China proposes Border Control Cooperation Agreement, anti-extremism convention, strengthening drug control and supporting national reconciliation with Afghanistan. Soon after the Paris attacks, China also referred to the West for help against Islamic militants in its western region of Xinjiang. Beijing blames the East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) for the deaths of hundreds of people during the past three years in the region. Western countries however have been reluctant to share intelligence with China, doubting ETIM’s existence as a coherent group as Beijing has not provided detailed evidence on their existence or operations.
- The International Monetary Fund said Russia is right in the $3 billion loan argument with Ukraine. The IMF said that the loan was indeed an intergovernmental loan and not a private one as Kiev claims. According to the Ukrainian contest, Russian loan was coming from its National Wealth Fund not the Russian government and should therefore not be part of the IMF rules. The IMF rules touches upon the sovereign debts and requires Ukraine to make good of them as part of its bailout package. The decision jeopardizes further funds now and leaves Kiev with the decision to make for refinancing the deal or paying the debt in full.
- Russia unveils a new arsenal in the battle in Syria as it employs space power in its military operations. Along with high-tech jet fighters, heavy bombers, ground-based artillery, ships and submarines, Russia mobilized its technologies in Earth’s orbit. Moscow said that it positioned 10 satellites over the Syrian territory to gather intelligence and spot targets as well as transfer signals between ground, air and sea forces. The Kremlin started to detail its space deployment from mid-November both in government statements and state-owned media outlets. In the beginning of December, an imagery from the satellites was first time circulated to back the claim that Turkey is helping Islamic State terrorists to export oil.
- Kyrgyzstan visa-free travel regime may be threatened by terrorism fears. Recently expressed positions from the senior officials show infighting behind the scenes over suspending a Westerner-friendly visa policy. Kyrgyzstan waived visa requirements for citizens from more than 40 countries back in 2012, with the list of primarily economically developed countries with a visa-free travel for the period of 60 days. Some officials now contest that the relaxed rules endanger the country’s security along with some calls of restrictions on Turkish citizens. According to the State Committee for National Security some citizens from western European countries who take advantage of the visa-free regime in Kyrgyzstan, are fighting for the IS group.
- Latvia started building a fence along the Russian border to keep out the illegal migrants. The new fence will cover about a third of the total border between the two countries. According to the Border Guard Service, the number of migrants illegally crossing the border increased from 144 last year to 500 in 2015 with a further expected increase. The Latvian move reflects a trend among other Baltic States and Poland to take a more defensive stand against Russia in response to Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. In April 2015 Poland also announced about building a series of watchtowers along its border with Russia’s Baltic exclave if Kaliningrad. Lithuania said it would bring back mandatory military service against Russia’s potential expansionism.