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Open newsletter – february 22, 2022

AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban is creating a “grand army” for Afghanistan that will include officers and troops who served the old regime, says the official tasked with overseeing the military’s transformation. Latifullah Hakimi, head of the Taliban’s Ranks Clearance Commission, also told a news conference on Monday that they had repaired half the 81 helicopters and planes supposedly rendered unserviceable by the United States-led forces during last year’s chaotic withdrawal. Al Jazeera: Taliban to create Afghanistan ‘grand army’ with old regime troops

AUSTRALIA – CHINA

Australia has accused a Chinese ship of illuminating one of its P-8A Poseidon multimission aircraft with a “military grade” laser while it flew over waters north of the Pacific nation. Defense News, Mike Yeo:  Australia accuses China of using ‘military grade’ laser against P-8A aircraft

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday announced a $804 million funding plan to expand the country’s presence in the Antarctic. As Morrison continues to whine about “threat of China” ahead of a looming federal election at the country, he seemed to have directly tied the Antarctic plan to Australia’s national security, according to Sky News Australia. Global Times, Wang Yi: Australia’s Antarctica plan stems from its hostility toward China

Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has accused China of shining a laser at one of its surveillance planes, referring to the incident as an “act of intimidation”. Morrison told media on Monday that his government had not received an explanation from China over the incident that took place on February 17, which Australia considered “dangerous and reckless”. Al Jazeera: Australia accuses China of shining laser at surveillance plane

CHINA

China has vowed to ensure food security by holding the people’s rice bowl firmly in its own hands, and to prevent rural residents who have been lifted out of absolute poverty from falling back into poverty, according to a key policy document published on Tuesday that prioritized wide-ranging efforts to boost rural vitalization. Global Times: China’s No.1 central document focuses on food security, rural vitalization

Statistics from China’s three major telecom operators show the number of users adopting 5G data packages kept soaring in January, with the three carriers adding a total of 28.1 million users in the month, key to laying the foundation for the next-generation internet technology to achieve efficiencies of scale soon. Global Times: China’s three major telecom operators added a total of 28.1m 5G users in Jan

The China Mobile Communications Association (CMCA)’s metaverse council, the country’s first metaverse industry group, has signed a strategic partnership with the Asia Digital Bank, in a bid to jointly explore the new digital finance and trade ecosystem in the metaverse era, an official said on Tuesday. Global Times: China’s metaverse industry group signs strategic partnership with Asia Digital Bank

Driven by the new energy industries, Ningde in East China’s Fujian Province has seen booming development, with its 2021 GDP jumping 13.3 percent, taking it into the country’s top 100 cities in terms of GDPGlobal Times: Boosted by new energy sector, Ningde’s economy sees booming development

Rocket debris set to impact the moon in March does not originate from the 2014 Chang’e-5 T1 mission, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claims. “According to China’s monitoring, the upper stage of the rocket related to the Chang’e-5 mission entered into Earth’s atmosphere and completely burned up,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said Feb. 21. SpaceNews, Andrew Jones: China claims rocket stage destined for lunar impact is not from its 2014 moon mission

The Communist Party of China (CPC) under the leadership of Xi Jinping has strengthened the level of censorship. It is a known fact that the Chinese media works directly under the command of the CPC. The media is not free to report or discuss issues which it may deem important or necessary. The media is a tool by which the CPC extends its viewpoints and also makes its policies and opinions known to the Chinese people as well as the international audience. Vivekananda International Foundation, Gunjan Singh: China Decides What it’s Citizens Watch

The number of investors on the Beijing Stock Exchange (BSE) exceeded 4.8 million as of the end of January, increasing 2.8 times compared with the pre-September announcement period, Xinhua News Agency reported on Tuesday. Global Times: Investors on Beijing Stock Exchange exceed 4.8 million in January

Major Chinese telecom operators revealed the latest number of 5G users on Monday. The growing users will be the key to laying the foundation for the technology to reach its scale efficiency soon in the country. Global Times: China has 757 million 5G users in January, the world’s largest

Chinese stocks edged down Tuesday morning amid a broader weakening of the global equities, as investors were unnerved by the latest geopolitical uncertainties in Europe. Global Times: Chinese stocks retreat, as investors are unnerved by geopolitical tensions in Europe

The Lhasa, the second Type 055 10,000 ton-class large destroyer of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, recently conducted live-fire drills against sea, air and land targets, effectively enhancing the warship’s comprehensive combat capabilities. Global Times, Liu Xuanzun: China’s Type 055 large destroyer Lhasa conducts live-fire drills, enhances combat capabilities

EUROPE

The EU taxonomy grossly simplifies a complex and dynamic world. It might help prevent green-washing but other tools are needed to guide green investment. Bruegel, Georg Zachmann: Europe’s sustainable taxonomy is a sideshow

GAS EXPORTING COUNTRIES FORUM 

Qatar’s capital Doha has hosted a two-day forum of gas-exporting nations against the backdrop of mounting tensions in Ukraine, as well as reporting progress in the drawn-out negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers. Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said the 11-nation Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), which began on Monday and includes Russia, was striving to preserve stability in world markets, which have been rocked by growing fears of a conflict between Moscow and Kyiv. Al Jazeera: Gas Exporting Countries Forum in Qatar: Who said what

GUATEMALA

Five members of Guatemala’s anti-corruption prosecutor’s office have resigned from their posts this month, the Public Ministry said on Monday, after two of them publicly denounced what they called unjust prosecution. Reuters,  : Five members of Guatemala’s anti-corruption prosecutor’s office quit

HONG KONG – RCEP

The Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) is kicking off a discussion about joining the RCEP after submitting an application in mid-January, Brian LO Sai Hung, Director-General of Trade and Industry, said on Monday. Global Times: Hong Kong submits application to join RCEP will boost trade, economy: official

INDIA

From early 2022, India’s exports have looked distinctly different. India seemed to have turned towards economic isolationism in 2019 when the government decided to walk away from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations. The government also announced its intent to review India’s three major Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreements (CEPAs) with ASEAN, South Korea and Japan. East Asia Forum, Biswajit Dhar: India’s renewed embrace of free trade agreement

INDONESIA

Indonesia is taking control of its mineral resources, incentivizing investment in processing facilities and shifting the international balance of economic power. On January 1 this year, the Indonesian government imposed a one-month ban on the export of thermal coal to avoid a domestic shortage at a time of high and rising international energy prices. South Korea, Japan and other coal importing countries were reportedly alarmed. Asian Times, Scott Foster: Indonesia bans mineral exports to move up value chain

IRAN

Iran has said it is ready to swap prisoners with the United States as months of indirect talks on reviving a 2015 nuclear deal appear closer to reaching agreement. Reuters: Factbox: Prisoners who could be freed alongside Iran nuclear deal

Talks on restoring a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear programme and ease sanctions are near conclusion, a Russian envoy said on Tuesday, and sources close to the negotiations said a prisoner swap between Iran and the United States is expected soon. Reuters, and : Iran appears ready to swap prisoners with U.S. as talks approach ‘finish line’

KAZAKHSTAN

Kazakhstan’s former defense minister, Murat Bektanov, who was detained last week over deadly unrest in January, has been placed in pretrial detention. RFE RL: Former Kazakh Defense Minister In Pretrial Detention Over Deadly January Unrest

A total of 18 foreign nationals remain imprisoned in Kazakhstan for allegedly being involved in last month’s unrest that killed 225 people, according to the country’s human rights commissioner. Speaking at a news meeting on Tuesday, Elvira Azimova said that foreign nationals, 14 of whom are Uzbek, two Russian and two Kyrgyz nationals, are in jail pending trial. Al Jazeera: Eighteen foreigners remain jailed in Kazakhstan over unrest

MYANMAR

Weapons exports to the military rulers in Myanmar by UN Member States must stop, the UN independent expert on the human rights situation in the country said on Tuesday. UN News: Stop weapons supply to Myanmar, rights expert urges

The United Nations human rights expert on Myanmar on Tuesday said Russia and China were providing the junta with fighter jets being used against civilians, and urged the U.N. Security Council to halt the flow of weapons enabling atrocities. Reuters: U.N. Myanmar expert says junta using new Russian, Chinese arms against civilians

The European Union has expanded sanctions imposed on Myanmar after last year’s coup to include a state-owned oil and gas company that is a lucrative source of income for the military, as well as several top officials. The measures announced on Monday mean 65 officials and 10 companies have now been targeted in asset freezes and visa bans by the EU since the military seized power on February 1 last year. Al Jazeera: New EU sanctions target Myanmar military’s lucrative gas firm

NAGORNO KARABAKH

The current situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is quite satisfactory, but certain problems still exist, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Tuesday during talks with his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev. TASS: Situation in Karabakh satisfactory, but problems do exist — Putin

RUSSIA

A court in Russia’s southwestern city of Rostov-on-Don has handed prison terms to three individuals from the North Caucasus region of North Ossetia who took part in a massive rally in April 2020 against anti-coronavirus restrictions. RFE RL: More North Ossetians Handed Prison Terms Over 2020 COVID Protests

A court in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Chechnya has sentenced two brothers to lengthy prison terms amid demands from human rights groups to release them. RFE RL: Chechen Brothers Handed Lengthy Prison Terms Amid Outcry From Rights Groups

A key witness called by prosecutors at the trial of jailed Russian opposition politician Aleksei Navalny has refused to testify, calling the new case against the outspoken Kremlin critic “absurd.”. RFE RL: Prosecution Witness Refuses To Testify Against Navalny At New Trial

Combat ships and submarines of the Russian Northern Fleet returned home after drills in the Barents Sea, the Fleet’s press office reported on Tuesday. TASS: Russian naval ships, submarines return home from Arctic drills

Russia’s stock market dropped by 10% and the cost of insurance on Russian sovereign risk soared after President Vladimir Putin recognized the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk, the regions of East Ukraine controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. Putin’s maneuver parallels the 1993 recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two breakaway districts of Georgia, after the Russian-Georgian War. Asia Times, David P. Goldman: Putin backfoots NATO with East Ukraine recognition

RUSSIA – MIDDLE EAST

Does Russia need a new Middle East strategy? This is the first question that springs to mind. After all, Russia has been quite successful, in some cases even outperforming the Soviet Union. In fact, Russia has succeeded in developing a close relationship with Israel while maintaining its trustbased ties with Palestine, as well as building an alliance with Syria all while strengthening relations with Iran, which used to call the USSR a “Little Satan”. Who could have imagined all that? Could it even have occurred to Soviet leaders to call Saudi Arabia a strategic partner like Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak did recently? Valdai Discussion Club, Konstantin Truevtsev: Russia’s New Middle East Strategy: Countries and Focal Points

RUSSIA – UKRAINE – SECURITY 

Russian President Vladimir Putin ratified friendship treaties with two Moscow-backed Ukrainian breakaway republics on Tuesday, the Kremlin said. Reuters: Putin ratifies treaties with breakaway Ukrainian regions

On the streets of the biggest city in Ukraine’s breakaway eastern regions, some residents expressed joy and gratitude on Tuesday over Russia’s decision to recognise their independence, but others were filled with foreboding for what might come next. Reuters: Hope, fear and uncertainty on Donetsk streets after Putin move

The United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet called on Tuesday for efforts to prevent a further escalation of the crisis in Ukraine and a return to dialogue in order to spare civilians and avert an exodus of refugees. Reuters,  : UN rights boss urges dialogue, end to violence in Ukraine

Germany froze a new gas pipeline and Britain hit Russian banks with sanctions on Tuesday, as the West responded to Moscow’s recognition of two separatist regions in Ukraine and a speech by President Vladimir Putin suggesting more belligerent aims. Reuters, and : Germany blocks opening of pipeline as West responds to Russian moves in Ukraine

Gli Stati Uniti stanno usando per la crisi ucraina i loro sistemi di intelligence più avanzati. Un ruolo chiave è quello dei droni GlobalHawk che decollano dalla base siciliana di Sigonella e restano in volo anche per 24 ore. Si muovono lungo i confini del Donbass e sulle posizioni dell’armata di Mosca in Bielorussia, monitorando in ogni missione 100 mila chilometri quadrati di territorio. Il GlobalHawk usa un radar a scansione, che “vede” sotto le nuvole e anche sotto gli alberi; un sensore all’infrarosso, che misura le differenze di calore per scoprire oggetti e persone, e un sistema optronico che approfondisce i dettagli. I dati di questi tre apparati vengono “fusi” dall’intelligenza artificiale per identificare in tempo reale qualsiasi mezzo o gruppo di persone. Assieme ai droni ci sono i grandi quadrireattori RC135 Rivet Joint, progettati 60 anni fa ma con le strumentazioni più moderne esistenti. Captano qualsiasi emissione elettromagnetica, dalle onde dei radar alle trasmissioni di radio e telefonini: possono localizzare il cellulare di un comandante russo e continuare a seguirlo, registrandone le conversazioni. Il tutto restando in volo per dozzine di ore. la Repubblica: Crisi Ucraina: così l’intelligence Usa spia le forze russe

Russia has strong capacity and resilience to withstand US and EU sanctions, as its economy – which has been buffering the impact of sanctions for years – is not outward-looking, and it has been diversifying its energy exports from Europe, a process that won’t encounter difficulties amid global energy shortages, Chinese analysts said on Tuesday, as tensions are running high between Russia and Ukraine and the West. Global Times: Russia can withstand Western sanctions after years of preparation: Chinese analysts

With the outbreak of the Ukraine crisis, Europe seems to have never been closer to a self-made energy crunch which threatens its future. The US and its Western allies condemned Russia’s latest move to recognize the two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent states while pledging to impose new sanctions on MoscowGlobal Times: GT Voice: Ukraine crisis likely to disrupt global energy supplies

With the sudden announcement of Russia recognizing “the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR)” and “the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR)” as independent and sovereign states, the Ukraine Embassy to China released a statement concerning the issue in Chinese on Tuesday, bringing the issue to a top trending topic on China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo. Global Times: Russian, Ukrainian, French, UK embassies turn to Chinese Twitter-like Weibo for statements on Ukraine situation

The Ukraine crisis sees new change as Russia has decided to recognize two regions in eastern Ukraine as “independent and sovereign states,” and the UN Security Council has met on the issue, with China calling on all parties to continue dialogue and consultations and seek reasonable solutions. Global Times, Yang ShengChen Qingqing and Fan Anqi: China cautiously handles complex Ukraine situation

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says his country is putting the certifying process for the controversial Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia on hold in reaction to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine. RFE RL: Scholz Says Germany Is Putting Nord Stream 2 On Hold, Following Putin’s Actions On Ukraine

Images of Russian military vehicles entering areas held by Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine’s east have shocked the world. President Vladimir Putin said they were part of a “peacekeeping mission”, hours after he recognised the regions’ independence. Al Jazeera: Ukraine-Russia crisis: 5 things to know about Putin’s bold move

A Russian lawmaker let slip Russia’s possible pretext for a full-scale war with Ukraine. Just hours after Moscow recognised the “independence” of the breakaway Ukrainian regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, a top parliamentarian in charge of affairs with ex-Soviet republics said that the borders of the Moscow-backed statelets should be “restored.”. Al Jazeera, Mansur Mirovalev: Is war more likely after Russia recognised Donetsk and Luhansk?

The threat of a large-scale Russian invasion looms over Ukraine to the north, south and, especially, the east. On its western border, the countries of Central Europe are eyeing a potential migrant crisis. The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia all say they are preparing for the possibility that war will send Ukrainians flooding their way. Some estimate that as many as five million people could flee the country in the worst-case scenario. Al Jazeera, Tim Gosling: Central Europe braces for an influx of Ukrainian refugees

The issue of nuclear weapons delivery to Ukraine does not depend on the US desire or non-desire and is regulated by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Tuesday. TASS: Nuclear weapon delivery to Ukraine is issue of non-proliferation, not desire

Authorities of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) will continue to evacuate civilians even after the recognition of the Donbass republics by Russia until the situation in the region normalizes, the DPR’s leader, Denis Pushilin said on Tuesday. TASS: DPR to continue evacuation of people until situation normalizes

The United Kingdom imposed sanctions on five Russian banks and three persons, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday in the Parliament. TASS: UK introduces sanctions against five Russian banks, three individuals

The intelligence service of the People’s Militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic has information about deployment of Ukrainian military units that are armed with S-300 and Buk-M1 systems in the area of the Kiev, Kharkov and Cherkassy airports, therefore they don’t rule out provocations with passenger aircraft, Deputy Head of the People’s Militia in the Donetsk People’s Republic Eduard Basurin said on Tuesday. TASS: DPR doesn’t rule out provocations with passenger aircraft by Ukraine

Russia calls on other countries to follow its example and recognize the independence of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. TASS: Russia calls on other countries to recognize DPR and LPR independence

Russia supports the sovereignty of former Soviet republics and the situation with Ukraine is an exception because it’s related to outside influence on the country, Russian President Vladimir Putin said during talks with his Azeri counterpart Ilham Aliyev. TASS: Russia supports sovereignty of neighbors, was forced to make exception for Ukraine

The United Kingdom’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has summoned Russian Ambassador Andrey Kelin over the alleged “undermining of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” according to the statement. TASS: UK’s Foreign Office voices protest to Russian envoy over Ukraine events

The probability of holding an urgent summit of the Normandy Format will depend on specific proposals for its agenda, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. TASS: Decision to hold Normandy Format summit depends on its agenda

La mossa di Putin nel Donbas può diventare un boomerang sui consensi interni in una situazione di già grave instabilità. A dar manforte al presidente russo c’è un partito trasversale e trasnazionale che in Italia gira intorno ai palazzi del governo. Il commento di Francesco Sisci. Formiche: Se l’onda russa può arrivare a Roma

Syria’s government says it “supports” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to recognise two Moscow-backed separatist-held regions in eastern Ukraine as independent. In comments carried by the state-run Syrian News Agency, Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad was quoted as saying that the government of President Bashar al-Assad “will cooperate” with the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR). Al Jazeera: Syria backs Russian recognition of east Ukraine breakaway regions

Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad said Syria supported the decision by Russian President Vladimir Putin to recognize independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics and called it a historic milestone. TASS: Syria supports Putin’s decision to recognize DPR, LPR

State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin assured that recognizing the independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR), and ratifying the treaties on friendship, cooperation and mutual aid should put a stop to the slaughter of Russians and compatriots living there. TASS: Speaker says recognizing Donbass’ independence should end bloodshed, deaths of civilians – World – TASS

Special committees of the State Duma – on international affairs, as well as on CIS affairs, Eurasian integration, and relations with compatriots – on Tuesday morning unanimously recommended that the lower house ratifies the agreements with the Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR) on friendship, cooperation, and mutual aid. TASS: Committees recommend State Duma to ratify agreements with DPR and LPR

The Ukrainian authorities have deployed 120,000 troops to the line of contact in Donbass, Russian Permanent Representative to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya said at a UN Security Council meeting dedicated to the situation around Ukraine. TASS: Russia’s UN envoy points to Kiev deploying 120,000 troops to line of contact in Donbass

The legislature of the Donetsk People’s Republic on Tuesday ratified the treaty on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance with Russia. All 87 law-makers attending the emergency full-scale session voted for ratification, a TASS correspondent reports from the conference hall. TASS: DPR’s parliament ratifies treaty on friendship, cooperation with Russia

Head of the State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs Leonid Kalashnikov on Tuesday said he believes Russia will recognize the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics as independent states within the borders that they set at a referendum to proclaim their independence in 2014. TASS: Russia to recognize DPR, LPR borders declared by 2014 referendum — lawmaker

Russia assumes the Minsk accords are no longer important for the Kiev regime, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on the Solovyov Live YouTube channel on Tuesday. TASS: Russian MFA says Minsk accords stopped being important for Kiev

Moscow is still ready for talks with Washington as the decision to recognize independence of the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics doesn’t affect the readiness for dialogue, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on the Solovyov Live YouTube channel. TASS: Russia is still ready for talks with US after recognizing LPR, DPR as independent — MFA

Let the games begin, and I don’t mean the just-concluded Beijing Winter Olympics. Rather, it’s the pending Russian invasion of Ukraine and uncertain Western response. Putin was canny enough to withhold invasion during the winter sports festival hosted by his geopolitical friend Xi Jinping. But with the Olympic Games over, public relations problems with China are out of the way. Nor did the United States and its NATO allies yet lay out how much they plan to punish Russia, economically and diplomatically, should Putin order his tanks into the former Soviet republic. Asia Times, Daniel Williams: Let the games begin – in Ukraine

China is concerned about the evolution of the situation in Ukraine and China’s position on the Ukraine issue is consistent, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call upon request on Tuesday. The legitimate security concerns of any country should be respected, and the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be upheld, Wang said. Global Times: Chinese Foreign Minister calls on all parties on Ukraine issue to remain restrained, resolving disputes through peaceful means

China calls on all parties relevant on the Ukraine situation to continue dialogue and consultation and seek reasonable solutions to address each other’s concerns on the basis of equality and mutual respect, Chinese Ambassador to UN Zhang Jun said. Global Times: China calls on all parties concerned on Ukraine issue to solve disputes by peaceful means at UNSC emergency meeting

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered Russian troops into two separatist-held regions in eastern Ukraine in a military escalation that Western leaders have warned could lead to massive consequences for Moscow. RFE RL: Putin Orders Troops Into Ukraine After Recognizing Separatists’ Independence Bid

Russian leader Vladimir Putin has ordered troops to move into Ukraine’s Donbas region on Monday, his second unprovoked invasion in eight years of the Western-leaning former Soviet republic. Defense One, Patrick Tucker, Kevin Baron: Putin Orders Russian Troops to Invade Eastern Ukraine

Japan on Tuesday said it stood ready to join the United States and other G7 industrialized nations in slapping sanctions on Russia, should President Vladimir Putin order an invasion of Ukraine. Reuters: Japan says its ready to join U.S.-led sanctions on Russia

China’s embassy in Ukraine on Tuesday warned Chinese nationals and businesses in Ukraine against venturing to “unstable” areas, but stopped short of telling them to consider leaving the country as many other nations have advised their own citizens. Reuters: China’s embassy in Ukraine warns Chinese nationals to avoid ‘unstable’ areas

Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega became one of the first world leaders to back Russia’s stance over Ukraine on Monday, saying President Vladimir Putin was right to recognise two regions controlled by Moscow-backed separatists as independent. Reuters,  : Nicaragua’s Ortega defends Russia’s stance over Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused Russia of wrecking peace efforts and ruled out making any territorial concessions in an address to the nation in the early hours of Tuesday. Reuters, and : Ukraine wants peace but won’t give up its land to Russia, president says

The United States is coordinating with allies and will announce new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday after Moscow recognized two breakaway regions of Ukraine as independent and sent “peacekeeping” forces there, U.S. officials said on Monday. Reuters and : U.S. to announce sanctions against Russia Tuesday in coordination with allies

The deployment of what Russia called a peacekeeping operation in eastern Ukraine is “nonsense” and Moscow’s recognition of breakaway regions as independent is part of its pretext for war, the United States told the U.N. Security Council on Monday. Reuters and : U.S. slams Russian ‘peacekeepers’ in Ukraine as ‘nonsense’

Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the deployment of troops to two breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine after recognising them as independent on Monday, accelerating a crisis the West fears could unleash a major war. Reuters and : Putin orders Russian troops to Ukraine after recognising breakaway regions

Almost exactly eight years to the day since he first ordered the invasion of Crimea, Vladimir Putin struck another blow in his war against Ukrainian statehood on February 21 by officially recognizing the two so-called separatist republics of eastern Ukraine as independent states. Atlantic Council, Peter Dickinson: Putin escalates his Ukraine war with recognition of separatist republics

Weeks of dire Western warnings began to bear out on Monday when Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into eastern Ukraine after recognizing the independence of two separatist regions. Europe’s post-Cold War security order hangs in the balance. Atlantic Council: Experts React: Russia just ordered troops into Ukraine again. What happens next?

US President Joe Biden signed a decree on sanctions over Russia’s recognition of the sovereignty of the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics (LPR and DPR). The document, among other things, establishes a ban for Americans to finance and invest in the DPR and LPR as well as on trade with the republics. TASS: Biden to sign decree on sanctions, investment bans, trade with DPR, LPR

SAUDI ARABIA – YEMEN

Sixteen people, including foreign nationals, were injured in Saudi Arabia when a drone launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting an airport in the kingdom was destroyed. A coalition statement, cited by the Saudi state news agency SPA on Monday, said the drone was launched towards King Abdullah Airport in the southwestern Jizan province. Al Jazeera: Saudi forces destroy Houthi drone targeting airport in Jizan

SOMALIA – IMF

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) could stop its programme in Somalia in three months if long-postponed national elections encounter new delays, a senior official has told the AFP. The IMF’s programme in Somalia is due for a review in mid-May, but election delays mean that a new administration may not be ready to endorse planned reforms in time, Laura Jaramillo Mayor, the fund’s mission chief for the country, said on Tuesday. Al Jazeera: IMF says Somalia funding at risk over election delays

TURKEY – AFRICA

Turkey’s president has promised to boost relations with African countries as he visited the Senegalese capital Dakar during a four-day tour of Central and West Africa. “We will continue to enhance our relations with African countries on the basis of sincerity and solidarity,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday during a joint press conference with his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall. Al Jazeera: Erdogan seeks to boost ties with Africa in four-day visit

TURMENISTAN

Election officials in the tightly controlled Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan have registered three more presidential candidates known as being loyal to authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov. RFE RL: More Candidates Seen As Loyal To Turkmen President Registered In Election

UAE – ISRAEL – IRAN

The United Arab Emirates and Israel are expected to boost security cooperation and further joint defense-industrial ventures in the wake of several attacks by Iranian proxy forces, experts have told Defense News. The UAE and Israel in September 2020 signed the Abraham Accords, which saw the two countries normalize diplomatic relations and enhance economic cooperation. Shared enmity of Iran and mutual fears over its nuclear program helped push the deal through after years of clandestine ties. Defense News, Agnes Helou: Iran-backed attacks are further driving UAE-Israeli defense tech development

USA

SpaceLogistics, a satellite-servicing firm owned by Northrop Grumman, announced Feb. 21 it plans to send to orbit a new servicing vehicle in 2024 on a SpaceX rocket. This will be the debut of the company’s Mission Robotic Vehicle, a servicing spacecraft equipped with a robotic arm that will install propulsion jet packs on dying satellites. The first customer for the MRV is Optus, Australia’s largest satellite operator. SpaceNews, Sandra Erwin: Northrop Grumman to launch new satellite-servicing mission in 2024

SpaceX launched a set of Starlink satellites Feb. 21 after more than three-fourths of the satellites from the previous launch were lost because of a solar storm. A Falcon 9 lifted off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 9:44 a.m. Eastern after a one-day delay because of recovery weather. The Falcon 9 upper stage deployed its payload of 46 Starlink satellites 62 minutes after liftoff, although confirmation of a successful deployment didn’t come until about 20 minutes later because of a lack of ground station coverage. SpaceNews, Jeff Foust: SpaceX launches Starlink satellites to higher orbit

USA – AFGHANISTAN

The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021 prompted governments and international institutions to quickly freeze Afghan Central Bank assets abroad. Reportedly, about $7.1 bn of Afghan assets was held in the US. On February 11, 2022, the White House issued an Executive Order that creates the possibility of dividing Afghanistan’s frozen assets between 9/11 victims and humanitarian aid to Afghans. Vivekananda International Foundation, Anwesha Ghosh: Biden’s Executive Order on Afghan Funds

USA –  INDO-PACIFIC

Entering its second year, the Biden administration has failed to produce a coherent economic policy for the Indo-Pacific. Meanwhile, two major regional trade agreements are moving forward. US businesses and workers will increasingly suffer from legal economic discrimination from these new regional trade rules of the road — the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). East Asia Forum, Claude Barfield: In search of a US-Indo-Pacific economic policy (eastasiaforum.org)

USA – ISRAEL – SAUDI ARABIA – UAE – IRAN

The United States sent F-22 fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates on Feb. 12, following last month’s Houthi missile attack on an Emirati base hosting American troops. While the added firepower is a welcome development, such deployments will not deter the Houthis or other Iranian proxies unless the hardware is reinforced by coordinated action by the United States, Israel, and Arab partners. Defense One, Bradley Bowman, Joe Truzman, Ryan Brobst: To Stop Iran’s Proxy Terrorists, Stop Iran

WORLD TRADING SYSTEM

This policy contribution assesses how the trading system has changed over the last five years – roughly coinciding with the start of the Trump administration and one year of President Biden – and sets out scenarios for how the situation might evolve. Bruegel, Uri Dadush: Is the post-war trading system ending?