World News Brief, Wednesday April 30

EU sanctions 15 Russian and Ukrainian political and military figures; North Korea conducts live-fire drill near border with South Korea; Chinese president visits home of Uighur separatists; Iraqi PM seeks third term; Nigerian military negotiating release of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram; and more  

Top of the Agenda

EU Levies New Russia Sanctions

The European Union levied sanctions on fifteen individuals on Tuesday, a move that follows the United States' announcement of a new round of sanctions on Monday. But while Washington's latest tranche is intended to hit the economic interests of Russian president Vladimir Putin's inner circle (WaPo)—including the chief executive of Kremlin-controlled oil company Rosneft—and high-tech trade, the Brussels list includes ten Russian and five Ukrainian political and military figures, including Russian armed forces chief of staff Valery Gerasimov, but not any private-sector figures, owing to a combination of economic, legal, and diplomatic considerations (WSJ). The Russian foreign ministry criticized the EU for "doing Washington's bidding" (Reuters). Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities suggested they would cut off Crimea from the bulk of its water supply pending a Kiev-Moscow agreement (Kyiv Post).


"Last weekend the Ukrainian newspaper Dzerkalo Tyzhnia published a large survey of more than 3,000 people in eight southern and eastern regions. Some of the results should comfort the country's leaders: only 15% of respondents want to unite with Russia. Even in Donetsk and Luhansk (the easternmost and most thoroughly Russian-speaking regions), the figure is less than a third. The poll debunks Russia's narrative of a desperate Russophone community in revolt against a nationalistic government in Kiev: some 77% oppose the armed separatists who have occupied public buildings in the region. But while many southern and eastern Ukrainians may not support the separatists, neither do they support the government," writes the Economist.

"It's illusory to think that these or any other sanctions will have more than a marginal impact on Putin's behavior, especially when it comes to Ukraine, which has been integral to Russia—as a market, a supplier, and a security buffer—for centuries. If Putin decided that it was in his vital interest to chop off eastern Ukraine and call it a part of 'New Russia,' then no economic sanctions—none that the United States and Western Europe can plausibly impose—would dissuade him from doing so," writes CFR Press Fellow Fred Kaplan in Slate.

"Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk has made the right suggestion here: prompt establishment of a European energy union, starting with the market for natural gas and including joint external representation and a common pricing policy. This step, combined with further differentiation among supplier countries and progress toward implementing renewable-energy technologies, would invert the balance of power between the EU (Russia's most important customer for oil and natural gas) and the Kremlin," writes Joschka Fischer for Project Syndicate.


Pacific Rim

North Korea Conducts Live-Fire Drill

North Korea fired some fifty artillery shells at its western maritime border with South Korea (Yonhap). A similar exercise last month resulted in the exchange of fire between North and South, but no shells fell south of the boundary on Tuesday, military officials said.

Stephen W. Bosworth and Han Sung-Joo discuss the North Korean nuclear threat.

CHINA: President Xi Jinping visited the south of Xinjiang province for the first time since becoming party leader in 2012 (SCMP). The region is home to Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority.

This Backgrounder describes China's Uighur population and responses to separatism in Xinjiang.


Iraqi PM seeks third term

Nigerian military has found abducted girls, negotiating their release 

This is an excerpt of the Daily News Brief. The full version is available on