Ukraine

Russia-DPRK defense pact: Cold War redux

Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a mutual defense assistance pact on June 19 during Putin's first visit to Pyongyang since 2000. According to a statement from the Russian government, the Treaty on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership stipulates "mutual assistance in the event of aggression against one of the parties thereto." Putin characterized the deal as a "breakthrough document," reflecting the desire to elevate relations to a "new qualitative level."

Baltic brinkmanship amid NATO war games

Sweden's armed forces on June 15 issued a statement charging that a Russian military aircraft violated the country's airspace the previous day, calling the act "unacceptable."  The Russian SU-24 fighter plane reportedly entered Swedish airspace just east of the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea, approximately 150 miles south of Stockholm. A Swedish JAS-39 Gripen jet was sent to intercept the Russian plane after a verbal call to retreat by the Swedish air command was ignored. The Swedish military said that the last violations of the Nordic country's airspace airspace by Russia were in 2022, when two Russian SU-27s and two SU-24s simiarly approached Gotland.

Russia's 'demobilization' movement under attack

Russian citizens' groups campaigning for "demobilization"—returning conscripts and reservists from the front in Ukraine—are increasingly finding themselves in the crosshairs of the authorities. On May 31, The Way Home, the most prominent organization campaigning to bring Russia's mobilized reservists home, was branded a "foreign agent" by the Justice Ministry, as was one of its most prominent leaders.  The label, reminiscent of the "enemy of the people" designation of the Soviet era, imposes harsh constraints on activities and requires sources of funding to be disclosed.

Uprising in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir

Three protesters were killed and six injured May 14 as Pakistani security forces fired on crowds during angry street demonstrations in Muzaffarabad, capital of Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK). The paramilitary Rangers were mobilized to Muzaffarabad after a police officer was killed three days earlier amid protests over high food, fuel and electricity prices. A "wheel-jam and shutter-down" strike had been called by the Jammu Kashmir Joint Awami Action Committee (JAAC) on May 10, but was called off as Islamabad agreed to a Rs 23 billion ($86 million) subsidy for the region. The new deadly violence erupted just as the Rangers were starting to withdraw from Muzaffarabad. A curfew remains in place in the city. (Jurist, Dawn, FPK, India Today, LiveMint, BBC News)

How to break cycle of rising global hunger?

More countries facing crises; more people going hungry. Some 281 million people were locked in high levels of acute hunger last year, according to the latest Global Report on Food Crises—a benchmark analysis of food insecurity by a network that includes UN agencies, donors, and famine analysts. The figure is 24 million higher than the previous year—a rise driven in part by Sudan's civil war and Israel's destruction of Gaza. Global hunger numbers have spiked since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to rise. A mix of conflict, extreme weather, El Niño, inflation, and volatile food prices suggest there won't be a reprieve by the time 2024's numbers are tallied. How do we break the cycle in the face of such dire numbers? Doubling down on reforming food systems, and building "peace and prevention" into the mix is crucial, aid groups say.

Lower emissions from US power grid (at least)

The US Department of Energy on April 25 released its preliminary estimate for the nation's carbon emissions in the previous year. While falling far short of the kind of drop needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals, a dip in emissions was recorded—almost entirely due to changes in the electric power sector. US carbon emissions have been trending downward since 2007, when they peaked at about six gigatonnes. The COVID-19 pandemic produced a dramatic drop in emissions in 2020, bringing the yearly total to below five gigatonnes for the first time since before 1990, when DoE monitoring began. Carbon dioxide releases rose after the return to "normalcy"; 2023 marked the first post-pandemic decline, with emissions again below five gigatonnes.

Mysterious drone strikes on Transnistria

The Russian Foreign Ministry has called for an investigation into a drone strike in Moldova's breakaway Transnistria region, condemning the attack as "yet another provocation" in the enclave. The "kamikaze" strike targeted a Transnistrian defense ministry installation April 5, resulting in damage to a radar station. The targeted facility lies six kilometers from the border of Ukraine. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova charged the attack was "aimed at aggravating the already tense situation around Transnistria." She stated that Russia expect "a thorough investigation into all the circumstances of what happened," adding: "We trust that those behind this reckless action will fully realize its dangerous consequence."

Tajikistan denies Moscow claim of mercenary recruitment

Tajikistan's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Shokhin Samadi on April 6 denied claims by Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev that Ukraine has been recruiting mercenaries for its military in the country's territory. Patrushev charged that Kyiv's embassy in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital, has been recruiting Tajikistan nationals to join the International Legion of the Ukrainian army, in return for a pathway to Ukrainian citizenship. The comments were made during a meting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in Kazakhstan.

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