World News Brief, Wednesday August 19

Rockets hit refugee convoy in Ukraine; Pope Francis ends Korea visit; Israel reclaims Mosul dam, Julian Assange to leave Ecuadorian embassy in London after two years; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Berlin Talks Stall as Luhansk Sees Fire

Russia said Monday that objections to the humanitarian convoy it sent to Ukraine had been resolved (Reuters) during talks between Russia, Germany, France, and Ukraine on Sunday, but said there had been no progress in the Berlin talks toward a cease-fire between government and rebel forces in the east of the country. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian military reported that rockets hit a convoy of vehicles (BBC) transporting refugees from the Luhansk area of eastern Ukraine, causing casualties. The Ukrainian military moved into the heart of the separatist hub for the first time on Sunday (NYT).


"It is possible that Putin recognizes that continued escalation is not in his medium to long term interest and that invading eastern Ukraine may only lead to a military quagmire that he needs to avoid. But having whipped Russian public opinion into such a 'do-something' state, he cannot be seen as backing down," writes CFR's Janine Davidson.

"There has also been much plotting and politicking within the separatist leadership of late, which could just be business as usual for an inscrutable and self-cannibalizing movement, or signs that a Soviet-style purge is underway at the behest of Moscow Center," writes Michael Weiss for Foreign Policy.

"If the Ukrainians' calculations about Mr. Putin's willingness to engage directly are wrong, Mr. Obama and other Western leaders will face yet another crisis at a time of mounting danger in Iraq and as hostilities between Israel and Hamas continue," writes Andrew Kramer for the New York Times.



Pope Francis Ends Korea Visit

Pope Francis wrapped up his visit to South Korea on Monday, urging the region to unite during a special inter-Korean reconciliation mass in Seoul (AFP). During his visit, which marked the first papal visit to Asia in fifteen years, Francis also reached out to North Korea and China, which have no formal relations with the Vatican.

SOUTH KOREA: South Korea and the United States began on Monday their annual two-week joint war drills (Yonhap) aimed at improving defense against North Korea, which recently fired rockets into the East Sea.


Israel reclaims Mosul dam

Assange to leave Ecuadorian embassy

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