Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet his top security officials prior to visiting annexed Crimea on Thursday with members of his government.
One way or another, with Ukrainian government forces encircling the main pro-Russian rebel stronghold of Donetsk, matters are coming to a head. Putin must decide whether to up his support for the separatists in east Ukraine or back off.
Tens of thousands of Russian troops remain camped near the Ukraine border and a Russian convoy of trucks carrying tonnes of humanitarian aid is heading for eastern Ukraine. Kiev says it would not allow the vehicles to cross into its territory and it and Western governments warned Moscow against any attempt to turn the operation into a military intervention by stealth in a region facing a humanitarian crisis after four months of warfare.
Uneasy allies the United States and Iran have both endorsed Iraq’s new prime minister-designate, Haider al-Abadi, as he called on political leaders to end feuding that has helped allow Sunni militants seize a third of the country. To make the odd couple an odder triumvirate, Saudi Arabia also gave him its backing. Such is the tangled web of Middle Eastern politics.
Abadi still faces opposition from his Shi’ite party colleague Nuri al-Maliki who has refused to step aside after eight years as premier. But Shi’ite militia and army commanders long loyal to Maliki signalled their backing for the change.
Abadi is seen as a far less polarising figure than Maliki and appears to have the blessing of Iraq’s powerful Shi’ite clergy. Late on Tuesday, a suicide bomber attacked a checkpoint near the Abadi’s Baghdad home.