The persistent anti-government political programmes enforced by BNP and like-minded political parties have cast a shadow over academic activities in Dhaka and parts of Bangladesh. Many schools and colleges in the capital have remained open despite the blockades but students’ attendance has dropped remarkably. Many guardians are reluctant to send their children to schools and colleges, especially those who live far from the educational institutions. Additionally, educational institutions have been forced to postpone scheduled exams, compounding the stress and uncertainty over students' studies. Read: BNP’s like-minded parties announce fresh 48-hour blockade from Wednesday The latest bout of the political turmoil saw a nationwide hartal on October 29. After the end of a three-day blockade on October 31, a two-day blockade is currently underway on November 5 and 6. This ongoing situation has left students and parents in a state of panic, with fears of a more challenging political situation throughout November and December. The implications of this political unrest are most profound in divisional cities and district headquarters, including the capital. Talking to the UNB reporter, many parents said they are particularly concerned about the safety of their children during their commute to and from school in these challenging times. Almost all educational institutions in the capital, including Motijheel Ideal School and College, Banasree Ideal School and College, Viqarunnisa Noon School and College Main Branch and Bashundhara Branch, Government Laboratory High School, Motijheel Government Girls High School, Rampura Ekramunnesa Girls' School, Rajuk Uttara Model School and College, and Banani Bidyaniketan, have reported a significant decrease in attendance. Read: Bus carrying passengers set on fire in Dhaka’s Gulistan Some English medium schools have been forced to close indefinitely, while others have resorted to holding classes online. Parents are increasingly concerned about the disparities between physical and online classes and are uncertain about the upcoming half-yearly exams. Sarwar Alam, a parent of a child studying at English medium school 'Play-Pen' located in Bashundhara, said, “We've shifted to online classes. However, there are noticeable disparities between physical classroom instruction and online learning. With the upcoming half-yearly exam scheduled for November 10, I am uncertain about how this examination will be carried out.” Ruhul Amin, a parent of a student at Ideal School and College, expressed the dilemma many parents are facing. “My two children study at Ideal School’s Banasree branch. I didn't allow my children to come to school during the previous phase of the hartal and blockade. They missed a week of school. Now it is happening again. Who knows how long this will last? That's why I brought my child to school again. But there is a sense of fear within us, wondering what will happen and when,” he said. The anxiety and concerns of parents are echoed by Abdul Majid Sujan, general secretary of the guardians’ forum at Viqarunnisa Noon School and College. “The children's annual examination is scheduled to be held this month. Meanwhile, the continuous strike and blockade are creating panic among parents. We are afraid and worried about sending the children to school, especially when it comes to traveling on the road,” Read: DMP chief announces Tk 20,000 reward for help with catching arsonists Director of the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education Professor Mohammad Belal Hossain, said that the annual evaluation of schools will start on November 9, with the goal of completing the examination by November 30. However, if the situation deteriorates, decisions will be made in consultation with higher authorities, he said. According to the previous schedule, the annual evaluation for class VI and VII students under the new curriculum was scheduled to begin on November 5 but has now been rescheduled to start on November 9. The impact of these disruptions extends beyond the capital, with divisional and district towns also experiencing low student turnout. In response to the evolving situation, schools have received revised schedules for examinations. Parents are left with no choice but to take risks and send their children to schools despite the uncertain circumstances.
The central office of BNP at Nayapaltan remained locked on Friday morning although police authorities assured of reopening from this morning. Besides, police again put up barricades in front of Nightingale restaurant in Kakrail and Fakirapool intersections restricting the traffic movement from 7am after 11 hours of being normal. Police earlier lifted the blockades on this road from 4 pm on Thursday. Read more: Mirza Fakhrul, Mirza Abbas picked up by detectives: BNP A large number of law enforcers remained deployed in the area since this morning. Police are not allowing anyone to enter this area without the identity card and proper checking. Several leaders and workers of BNP gathered at Fakirapul intersection and were chased by the police at 11am. An on-duty police member told UNB the step has been taken to ensure public security. Motijheel Division Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Deputy Commissioner Hayatul Islam Khan said the surrounding area including Nayapaltan is under police control. No BNP leaders activists will be allowed to enter this area. He said some leaders and activists tried to gather in the surrounding areas in Nayapaltan since morning, but they were dispersed. There are dozens of armoured vehicles, prison vans and police cars on the blocked road. Read more: BNP yet to decide venue for Dec 10 rally
Ayoub Rumeihat opened his palms to the sky in prayer as he stood among tombstones for Bedouins killed in action while serving the state of Israel. Finishing the holy words, he gazed at the distant Mediterranean Sea across a valley full of olives and oak where his community has grazed goats for generations. Rumeihat says the Bedouins, celebrated by the Israeli military for their knowledge of the land, fear the government now seeks to sever their ties to that same piece of earth. Rumeihat and his fellow Bedouins see a plan to turn their land into a wildlife corridor as an affront to their service to the country. They say it’s in line with steps taken by nationalist Israeli governments against the Arab minority in recent years that have deepened a sense of estrangement and tested the community’s already brittle ties to the state. The plan has sparked rare protests from Bedouins in Israel’s northern Galilee region — some of the few native Palestinians to embrace early Jewish settlers before Israel’s creation in 1948. Many have since served in the Israeli police and military, often fighting against fellow Palestinians. “We were with you from the beginning,” said Rumeihat, standing next to a tombstone engraved with a Star of David in honor of a Bedouin tracker likely killed by a Palestinian. “We are like the lemon and the olive trees. How can you uproot us?” Palestinian citizens of Israel make up 20% of the country’s 9 million people. They have citizenship and can vote, and some reach the highest echelons of government and business. But they have long faced discrimination in housing, jobs and public services and face neglect at the hands of the state. Many Jewish Israelis see them as a fifth column for their solidarity with the Palestinian cause. Within that same minority are subgroups, like the Bedouins, who have become more embedded in Israeli society through their service in the security forces. But in recent years, the Bedouins have accused Israel of belittling their service with its policies, particularly a 2018 law that defines the country as the nation state of the Jewish people. Bedouin and Druze Israelis, who both serve in the military, felt the law demoted them to second-class citizens. The community sees the wildlife corridor as another slight. It will set controls on their grazing and could limit the residents’ housing options in the future. The Bedouins have started small weekly protests with Jewish supporters in the Galilee and also in Jerusalem, outside the offices of the prime minister and the Nature and Parks Authority. The 2,600-acre (1,050-hectare) wildlife corridor is meant to allow foxes, quail and other animals to move safely around the urban landscape of Haifa, the country’s third-largest city. The Bedouins call the lush ravines of the area al-Ghaba, or “forest” in Arabic. Environmentalists say wildlife corridors, which serve as safe migration zones for animals, are an important part of conservation efforts. Uri Shanas, an ecology professor at the University of Haifa-Oranim, said the corridor was essential because the surrounding area is built up and the animals, especially the endangered mountain gazelle, require the land bridge. “The only place that it’s still thriving in the world is in Israel and we are obliged to protect it,” he said. Read: Gaza militants hold parade after latest battle with Israel Palestinian citizens of Israel have in the past accused Israeli authorities of justifying land seizures under the guise of environmental stewardship. In January, Bedouins in southern Israel staged protests against tree planting by nationalists on disputed land. And advocacy groups say many forests in Israel were planted atop the ruins of Palestinian villages emptied during the events that led to Israel’s creation. A spokeswoman for the parks authority, Daniela Turgeman, said the corridor plan was crafted with local leaders in the 1980s and surveyed plants and animals. She said that it allows for controlled grazing and said there are only “a few individuals who still have objections.” The Bedouins object to the plan’s omission of traditional land-use rights and reject any limits on grazing. They claim private ownership of certain parcels and total grazing rights after settling in the area about 100 years ago, buying land, planting olive groves and farms, and building homes. They also deny there was any prior consultation with the parks authority, which Turgeman said formed the plan after six recent meetings and “a joint tour” with local leaders. Guy Alon, an official with the parks authority, told Israel’s Channel 13 TV in July that the wildlife corridor would benefit Jews and Arabs while respecting property rights and striking an ecological balance. For “Bedouins who come and say ‘we want open spaces,’ the nature reserve offers just that,” he said. “Those who ask that we let them graze on the land, we respect that.” he said. After learning of the plan, three Bedouin villages filed an objection, charging the corridor didn’t take into consideration private Bedouin property. The Haifa district planning committee rejected that objection, and an appeal is now being heard. “Nature has been used as a political tool before many, many times, so for people there is no trust,” said Myssana Morany, a lawyer with the Arab legal rights group Adalah, which filed the objection on the residents’ behalf. She said the parks authority has dealt with the Bedouins differently than it has with other citizens, pointing to nearby examples of its plans to integrate nature reserves with existing farms and other types of land use. Environmental claims ring hollow to villagers who see ongoing construction at nearby Jewish villages as far more ecologically disruptive than grazing goats and olive groves. Fatima Khaldi, 73, sitting in her large family home in the village of Khawaldeh, said local knowledge will protect the land more than any outside expertise. “Their whole goal is to remove us and destroy our heritage.” Mustafa Rumeihat, 70, a distant relative of Rumeihat, said he’s worried his grandchildren won’t inherit the family ties to the land. “I see myself dying of desperation,” he said, shuffling downhill from his pen of two dozen goats. “When my son asks me about the land, I won’t be able to answer him.”
Last week’s attack on author Salman Rushdie and the indictment of an Iranian national in a plot to kill former national security adviser John Bolton have given the Biden administration new headaches as it attempts to negotiate a return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. A resolution may be tantalizingly close. But as the U.S. and Europe weigh Iran’s latest response to an EU proposal described as the West’s final offer, the administration faces new and potentially insurmountable domestic political hurdles to forging a lasting agreement. Deal critics in Congress who have long vowed to blow up any pact have ratcheted up their opposition to negotiations with a country whose leadership has refused to rescind the death threats against Rushdie or Bolton. Iran also vows to avenge the Trump administration’s 2020 assassination of a top Iranian general by killing former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Iran envoy Brian Hook, both of whom remain under 24/7 taxpayer-paid security protection. Although such threats are not covered by the deal, which relates solely to Iran’s nuclear program, they underscore deal opponents’ arguments that Iran cannot be trusted with the billions of dollars in sanctions relief it will receive if and when it and the U.S. return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, a signature foreign policy accomplishment of the Obama administration that President Donald Trump withdrew from in 2018. “This is a tougher deal to sell than the 2015 deal in that this time around there are no illusions that it will serve to moderate Iranian behavior or lead to greater U.S.-Iran cooperation,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “The Iranian government stands to get tens of billions in sanctions relief, and the organizing principle of the regime will continue to be opposition to the United States and violence against its critics, both at home and abroad,” he said. Iran has denied any link with Rushdie’s alleged attacker, an American citizen who was indicted for attempted murder and has pleaded not guilty in the Aug. 12 stabbing at a literary event in Western New York. But Iranian state media have celebrated Iran’s long-standing antipathy toward Rushdie since the 1988 publication of his book “The Satanic Verses,” which some believe is insulting to Islam. Media linked to Iran’s leadership have lauded the attacker for following through on a 1989 decree, or fatwa, calling for Rushdie to be killed that was signed by Iran’s then-Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. And the man who was charged with plotting to murder Bolton is a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Justice Department alleges the IRGC tried to pay $300,000 to people in the United States to avenge the death of Qassam Suleimani, the head of its elite Quds Force who was killed by a U.S. airstrike in Iraq in 2020. “I think it’s delusional to believe that a regime that you’re about to enter into a significant arms control agreement with can be depended on to comply with its obligations or is even serious about the negotiation when it’s plotting the assassination of high-level former government officials and current government officials,” Bolton told reporters Wednesday. “It certainly looks like the attack on Salman Rushdie had a Revolutionary Guard component,” Bolton said. “We’ve got to stop this artificial division when dealing with the government of Iran between its nuclear activities on the one hand and its terrorist activities on the other.” Read: Iran submits a ‘written response’ in nuclear deal talks Others agree. “Granting terrorism sanctions relief amid ongoing terror plots on U.S. soil is somewhere between outrageous and lunacy,” said Rich Goldberg, a former Trump administration national security council staffer and longtime deal critic who is now a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which has also lobbied against a return to the JCPOA. While acknowledging the seriousness of the plots, administration officials contend that they are unrelated to the nuclear issue and do nothing to change their long-held belief that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be more dangerous and less constrained than an Iran without one. “The JCPOA is about the single, central challenge we face with Iran, the core challenge, what would be the most threatening challenge we could possibly face from Iran, and that is a nuclear weapon,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said this week. “There is no doubt that a nuclear-armed Iran would feel an even greater degree of impunity, and would pose an even greater threat, a far greater threat, to countries in the region and potentially well beyond.” “Every challenge we face with Iran, whether it is its support for proxies, its support for terrorist groups, its ballistic missiles program, its malign cyber activities — every single one of those — would be more difficult to confront were Iran to have a nuclear weapons program,” he said. That argument, however, will be challenged in Congress by lawmakers who opposed the 2015 deal, saying it gave Iran a path to develop nuclear weapons by time-limiting the most onerous restrictions on its nuclear activities. They say there’s now even more tangible evidence that Iran’s malign behavior make it impossible to deal with. Two of the most outspoken critics of the deal, Republican senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Tom Cotton of Arkansas, have weighed in on what the Rushdie attack should mean for the administration. “The ayatollahs have been trying to murder Salman Rushdie for decades,” Cruz said. “Their incitement and their contacts with this terrorist resulted in an attack. This vicious terrorist attack needs to be completely condemned. The Biden administration must finally cease appeasing the Iranian regime.” “Iran’s leaders have been calling for the murder of Salman Rushdie for decades,” said Cotton. “We know they’re trying to assassinate American officials today. Biden needs to immediately end negotiations with this terrorist regime.” Under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, or INARA, the administration must submit any agreement with Iran for congressional review within five days of it being sealed. That begins a 30-day review period during which lawmakers may weigh in and no sanctions relief can be offered. That timeline means that even if a deal is reached within the next week, the administration will not be able to start moving on sanctions relief until the end of September, just a month from crucial congressional midterm elections. And, it will take additional time for Iran to begin seeing the benefits of such relief because of logistical constraints. While deal critics in the current Congress are unlikely to be able to kill a deal, if Republicans win back control of Congress in the midterms, they may be able to nullify any sanctions relief. Read: US-Iran tensions thrust foreign policy into Democrats' race “Even if Iran accepts President Biden’s full capitulation and agrees to reenter the Iran nuclear deal, Congress will never vote to remove sanctions,” the GOP minority on the House Armed Services Committee said in a tweet on Wednesday. “In fact, Republicans in Congress will work to strengthen sanctions against Iran.”
Bangladesh has reiterated her firm adherence to ‘One China’ policy and urged the parties concerned to resolve their differences in accordance with the UN Charter and through dialogue. “We hope it will not further aggravate…the world can’t afford to have another crisis,” said State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md. Shahriar Alam on Thursday, adding that the world is going through enough crises. Bangladesh has urged all parties concerned to exercise utmost restraint and refrain from any actions that may aggravate tensions and undermine peace and stability in the region and beyond. Bangladesh is closely following the developments in the Taiwan Strait, said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Read: Pelosi’s Taiwan visit, China’s blockade and what next?
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday said that the world must not divert its attention from the looming climate crisis due to the ongoing geo-political tension. “Despite the ongoing geo-political tension, we cannot allow the world to take away its attention from the looming climate crisis,” she said urging the developed countries to deliver on their commitments on financing and technology under the Paris Agreement. The premier said this while delivering her speech virtually from her official residence Ganobhaban at a ceremony to mark the handing over of the Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) presidency from Bangladesh to Ghana. Bangladesh, which took over as the president of the CVF for the second time in 2020, has managed to steer the Forum’s work through the Covid-19 pandemic, she said. “I believe our Presidency’s most important legacy will be to shift the narrative from climate vulnerability to resilience and prosperity, she added. The PM said that under her leadership the CVF could achieve most of its objectives and more. Welcoming Ghana as the new president, Hasina said she is confident that CVF leadership will be in steady hands under Ghana’s President Akufo-Addo’s watch. She said as a member of the Troika, Bangladesh will continue to extend all necessary cooperation to Ghana. She mentioned that the CVF is now a significant presence in the international climate setting. It has emerged as the legitimate voice for countries most affected by climate change. The rise in CVF membership is a proof of that. “From the outset, our Presidency remained focused on COP26 outcomes. Despite the pandemic, we held the world’s attention to the climate crisis,” she said. She also said that the CVF also launched the Midnight Survival Deadline for countries to raise their climate ambitions. “We urged them to submit their NDCs by 31 December 2020. Some 70 nations responded to our call.” READ: PM: Keep environment in mind in development projects She said that during Bangladesh’s presidency it created the CVF-V20 Joint Multi-Donor Fund to support members in their climate action. She mentioned that Bangladesh and Marshall Islands provided the seed funding. She the V20 Climate Vulnerables Finance Summit hosted by Bangladesh in 2021 pressed for a Delivery Plan for the 100 billion US dollar climate finance in the next five years. “We got it realized in Glasgow,” she said. The prime minister said that Dhaka-Glasgow Declaration is a summary of CVF’s core demands and commitments. “We renewed our call for high-emitting countries to keep the 1.5°C (Celsius) pledge alive and raise their climate ambitions annually,” she said. “We secured commitment for increased adaptation financing and international dialogue on loss and damage.” She mentioned that five Thematic Ambassadors were appointed during Bangladesh’s term. “We have high hopes from the mandate-holder for climate change and human rights. We shall maintain our advocacy on displacement and migration caused by climate change,” said the premier. Hasina said that the CVF-V20 Parliamentary Group has a critical role to play in building public opinion for climate action. She said Bangladesh is developing its “Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan” that can provide a template for other vulnerable countries in their own context. She also expressed her gratefulness to CVF and GCA Secretariats for their tireless work during Bangladesh’s presidency. President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo, Chair of the Global Centre on Adaptation Ban Ki-moon, Climate Vulnerable Forum (CVF) Thematic Ambassador Saima Wazed and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Regional Integration of Ghana Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr Abdul Momen and Environment and Forest and Climate Change Minister Md. Shahab Uddin also spoke. Special Envoy of the Climate Vulnerable Forum Presidency of Bangladesh Abul Kalam Azad presented the presidency report. A documentary also screened at the programme.
Tensions heightened in New Market area on Wednesday after two crude bombs were exploded near Dhaka College campus, forcing the shopkeepers to shut down their shops. The students of Dhaka College blocked road and blasted two crude bombs in front the college around 5 pm, creating panic among the pedestrians and shopkeepers. Vehicular movement in the area came to a halt for some time after the blasts. Shahen Shah, additional superintendent of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said police forces have been deployed in the area to bring the situation under control. Vehicular movement retuned to normalcy when police cleared the road and sent the students to the campus. “Discussions are on between the teachers of the college and leaders of Traders Association over the issue and a solution will come by today,” said Shahen Shah. Besides, New Market shopkeepers hanged a white flag on the gate of the market as a symbol of peace. READ: First death reported in New Market-Dhaka College clash A 20-year-old man identified as Nahid Hossain, a delivery man for Dlink courier service , who suffered injuries during violent clashes between Dhaka College students and New Market traders died on Tuesday. Over 30 people, including journalists and students, were injured Tuesday as students of Dhaka College locked into a series of clashes again with traders of New Market around the Nilkhet intersection. The whole area turned into a battleground after a fresh clash erupted between them around 10 am Tuesday, as a sequel to Monday night's tensions, said witnesses. Around midnight on Monday, a clash ensued between the traders and college students, with the latter alleging that a few of their peers were thrashed and stabbed by a couple of shopkeepers when they had gone to the market for shopping, and refused to pay the bill at an eatery.
With tens of thousands of Russian troops positioned near Ukraine, the Kremlin has kept the U.S. and its allies guessing about its next moves in the worst security crisis to emerge between Moscow and the West since the Cold War. Amid fears of an imminent attack on Ukraine, Russia has further upped the ante by announcing more military drills in the region. It also has refused to rule out the possibility of military deployments to the Caribbean, and President Vladimir Putin has reached out to leaders opposed to the West. The military muscle-flexing reflects a bold attempt by the Kremlin to halt decades of NATO expansion after the end of the Cold War. In talks with the United States, Russia demands legally binding guarantees that the alliance will not embrace Ukraine and other former Soviet nations, or place weapons there. It also wants NATO to pull back its forces from countries in Central and Eastern Europe that joined the alliance since the 1990s. Putin has described NATO membership for Ukraine and the others as well as the alliance's weapons deployments there as a red line for Moscow, warning that he would order unspecified “military-technical measures” if the demands aren't met. Putin pointed to NATO drills with the Ukrainian military, increasingly frequent visits of the alliance warships in the Black Sea and the flights of U.S. bombers near Crimea to emphasize the urgency of Russia's security demands. He argued that by creating training centers in Ukraine, Western powers can establish a military foothold there even without its joining NATO. "We have nowhere to retreat,” Putin said. "They have taken it to the point where we simply must tell them: ‘Stop!’” Russia, which annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014, has denied it intends to attack its neighbor. Last year, however, Putin issued a stark warning that an attempt by Ukraine to reclaim control of the areas in the east controlled by Russia-backed separatists would have “grave consequences for Ukrainian statehood.” While Ukrainian authorities denied planning such offensive, U.S. intelligence officials concluded that Russia had already deployed operatives to carry out acts of sabotage in the rebel east and blame them on Ukraine in a “false-flag operation” to create a pretext for possible invasion. Russia has rejected the claim as “total disinformation.” Putin has repeatedly asserted that Russians and Ukrainians are “one people,” and says large chunks of Ukrainian territory are historic parts of Russia — arbitrarily granted to Ukraine by Communist leaders during Soviet times. Over 14,000 people have been killed in nearly eight years of fighting in Ukraine's industrial heartland called the Donbas, where the Moscow-supported insurgency erupted shortly after the annexation of Crimea. A 2015 peace deal brokered by France and Germany helped end large-scale battles, but a political settlement has stalled, and frequent skirmishes have continued along the tense line of contact. READ: US and Russia try to lower temperature in Ukraine crisis In early 2021, a spike in cease-fire violations in the east and a Russian troop concentration near Ukraine ignited the invasion fears, but tensions abated when Moscow pulled back the bulk of its forces after maneuvers in April. The military buildup near Ukraine resumed in the fall, with Ukrainian and Western officials warning that the increasing troop concentration could herald a multipronged Russian attack. Putin noted with satisfaction that Russia has caused a “certain stress” in the West. “It’s necessary to keep them in that condition for as long as possible," he said in November, ordering his diplomats to push for binding guarantees against NATO expansion. While the U.S. and its allies rejected the Russian demands for a halt to NATO expansion, some observers note that Moscow's insistence on a written reply may reflect an intention to use it as an argument for a possible escalation. “At this stage, the parties don't intend to compromise and want to shift responsibility for a potential conflict,” said Kirill Rogov, a Moscow-based independent analyst. Adding to an estimated 100,000 troops deployed near Ukraine, Russia also has moved more troops from Siberia and the Far East for joint drills with its ally Belarus, which also borders Ukraine. In those exercises, Russian military units have moved to areas near Belarus’ southern border, which is about 75 kilometers (47 miles) from Kyiv. Earlier this week, the Russian Defense Ministry also announced a series of naval maneuvers in the Black Sea and more distant areas such as the Mediterranean, northeastern Atlantic and the Pacific. The exercises that will start this month and last through February would involve over 140 ships, dozens of aircraft and more than 10,000 personnel. Amid the tensions, Putin also worked to strengthen alliances with the countries opposed to the West. He has hosted Iran's hard-line president for talks on expanding cooperation and is set to travel to the opening of the Winter Olympics in Beijing where he will hold talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. In recent days, Putin also spoke by phone with the leaders of Nicaragua and Venezuela, and a Russian government plane was recently seen cruising between Cuba and Venezuela in a possible harbinger of the next Kremlin moves. After the U.S. and its allies rejected Russia's demands for a halt to NATO expansion, Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov kept the door open for the deployment of military assets to Cuba and Venezuela. While voicing concern that NATO could potentially use Ukrainian territory for the deployment of missiles capable of reaching Moscow in just five minutes, Putin has warned that Russian warships armed with the latest Zircon hypersonic cruise missile would give Russia a similar capability if deployed in neutral waters. READ: Russia announces sweeping naval drills amid Ukraine tensions Fyodor Lukyanov, a leading Russian foreign policy expert, observed that with Russia and the West taking intransigent stands in the talks, an escalation appears inevitable. “Tensions will be high, including demonstrations of force not necessarily near or in Ukraine,” Lukyanov wrote in a commentary. “Real talks with some room for maneuvering and a broader agenda would ideally begin only after the next round of escalation in order to ease tensions.”