For the night of 27 April 2014
North Korea: On 25 April, news services reported that a 24-year-old American "tourist" tore up his visa while passing through North Korean immigration more than two weeks ago. He claimed he wished to seek asylum after "choosing the DPRK as a shelter."
The Korean Central News Agency announced on Friday that, "The relevant organ put him in custody after taking a serious note of his behavior, and is now investigating the case."
Comment: The North's media reported the American acted "rashly" and violated various laws regulating public behavior. Evidently the North Koreans think it's crazy for an American to seek asylum in North Korea.
The North does not want and is suspicious of Westerners who want asylum in North Korea because they might be spies. There is a reasonable chance the North will expel this person after interrogation.
Nuclear test preparations update. The academic research group 38 North reported that its analysis of commercial satellite imagery dated 25 April showed that activity increased at several locations at the Punggye-ri nuclear test site in the past week. The group reported more vehicle and cargo movements that it judges are consistent with preparations for an underground nuclear test.
It also judged that the preparations are not complete because the tunnels that would be used for detonating a device or weapon do not appear to be sealed.
Russia-US: Update: On Saturday morning, Russian press reported that President Putin and Defense Minister Shoygu stopped taking calls from their American counterparts because they kept making the same demands over and over and had nothing new to say or offer.
Weekend events indicated that the Russian Foreign Minister continues to take calls from the US Secretary of State. In one weekend telephone call, both urged the other to use his good offices to secure the release of detainees held by their Ukrainian proxies.
Russia-Ukraine: Russian military aircraft "crossed and violated" Ukrainian airspace seven times overnight on 25 and 26 April, according to Kiev regime Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The Russian Defense Ministry denied the accusation, according to the state news agency Itar-Tass.
Comment: The Russians showed that they can control the airspace and provide air cover for areas they want to protect. They also gave some pilots an opportunity to familiarize themselves with those areas in eastern Ukraine.
The Russian denial might mean that the fighter aircraft flew in airspace that Russia no longer considers Ukrainian.
Ukraine: Russian state news RIA Novosti reported that Ukraine has mobilized 15,000 troops in the suburbs of Slovyansk in eastern Ukraine "in order to wipe out the city and its residents."
A Russian Defense Ministry source reportedly said satellite photos showed the force forming around Slovyansk. He said the images showed about 160 tanks, 230 infantry combat vehicles and armored personnel carriers, mine throwers and multiple-launch rocket systems.
Comment: RIA Novosti is the only source to report the Ukrainian buildup. Its report provided no date for the imagery. Ukrainians in the area should be able to observe such a force, which is the size of a combined arms division. They have been quick to post to the Web images of military equipment, especially armor. The force reported by RIA Novosti apparently has not been reported by local Ukrainians.
Luhansk declared independence. A so-called congress of representatives of "territorial communities, political parties and public organizations" of Luhansk Region declared the creation of a sovereign state, the 'Luhansk people's republic," according to a spokeswoman for the congress. "From now on, we are a free and independent Luhansk people's republic!"
The spokeswoman's statement contained the main question that will be on the ballot in the referendum planned for 11 May: "Do you support the act of declaration of state sovereignty of the Luhansk people's republic?"
The statement also said that "in the event of aggressive actions by illegitimate Kyiv authorities", the "Luhansk people's republic" intended to ask Russia to send in peacekeepers.
Comment: Luhansk ostensibly joins Donetsk as an independent people's republic. These declarations seem rather silly because neither town is capable of functioning as an independent entity in any sense. While an independence declaration was a step towards Crimea joining the Russian Federation, it is not clear that the eastern Ukrainian towns will progress in that direction. Nevertheless, the leaders of the activists seem to judge these declarations are part of a political program of some kind.
Reputable Russian media commentaries and politicians continue to talk about protecting Russians, but they have stopped talking about annexing eastern and southern Ukrainian territory. In any event, the Russians are not likely to reveal their political intentions until the outcome of the 11 May referendum is clear.
Status of Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) inspectors. On Friday, a militia group loyal to eastern Ukrainian protesters detained a busload of unarmed OSCE military inspectors as they entered Slovyansk. Four are German and a German colonel leads the group. Others are from Sweden, Denmark, Poland, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic. Five Ukrainian soldiers were with the inspectors.
Slovyansk's pro-Russia mayor defended the capture, saying his men had found "forbidden ammunition" on board the bus and maps annotated with the location of checkpoints. He called the inspectors spies and claimed one of the soldiers was "an employee of Kiev's secret military staff."
On 27 April, Slovyansk released a Swedish member of the OSCE group because he is a diabetic. A statement by the Swiss Foreign Minister who is "the chairperson-in-office" for the OSCE confirmed the release.
The mayor of Slovyansk also paraded three bloodied Ukrainian military personnel who had been captured, interrogated and beaten. The mayor said the men had a covert mission to eliminate activist leaders.
Russia offered to try to obtain the release of the OSCE inspectors.
Comment: The Russian offer of assistance is probably as sincere as any commitments made by any party in the Ukraine situation, but it also is a clever move. The Russians gain respect and gratitude just for having offered to help. When their good offices are rejected, they will cite this incident as proof that they do not control the decisions of the activists in eastern Ukraine, as the US claims.
Late on Sunday, Slovyansk authorities said they would not release the inspectors.
Mariupol: First reports on Friday indicated that pro-Kiev groups recaptured the city hall from pro-Russia activists. Later information indicated that pro-Russia demonstrators recaptured city hall. The police kept the peace while control of the city hall changed hands.
Comment: The ineffectiveness of the Kiev regime's security forces is helping encourage eastern Ukrainians to affiliate with Russia in some fashion. Kiev cannot protect them.
The Mariupol situation is worth noting because local law enforcement and other city services continue with little interruption and without taking sides, according to a weekend eyewitness account. That is a useful counterweight to news reporting that seems to imply that eastern Ukraine is in chaos. Most of the action, if any, focuses on the city hall and key government buildings and on checkpoints on key roads.
Lithuania: Update. The United States deployed 150 paratroopers to Lithuania on Saturday. This is a component of the 600 soldiers the US is sending to Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
Comment: President Dalia Grybauskaite was profoundly and effusively grateful in her welcoming statement. She said, in paraphrase, that if any of the "guests" are injured by the Russians, the US would be involved.
Nigeria: Over the weekend, the Nigerian defense ministry claimed success in fighting the Boko Haram terrorists that kidnapped at least 230 teenage girls from their school dormitories in northern Nigeria on 16 April. The terrorists presented themselves as soldiers.
"The capture of a number of terrorists believed to be the ringleaders of those operating around Alagarmo sparked off a major fight on the outskirts of Bulanbuli, Borno State last night," defense spokesman Major General Chris Olukolade said in a statement. "Over 40 terrorists died in the encounter while 4 soldiers lost their lives and 9 were wounded," he said.
Comment: The locations of the alleged fighting mentioned in the statement are near the school where the abductions occurred. There is no confirmation of the fighting mentioned in the official statement.
The parents reported to school authorities the names of 230 missing daughters. News services state that 43 managed to escape and 187 are still held, reportedly in a northern Nigerian forest.
Nigerian education authorities in the north continue to provide inaccurate and misleading reports about the missing children. They claimed seven more girls escaped on 27 April, but could not name them or present them to parents. In the past eleven days the Nigerian Army has failed to locate the girls or their kidnappers.
End of NightWatch for 27 April.
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