Whatever it is, it can’t be good

It’s not clear what’s happening in eastern Ukraine, where the rebel “government” in Luhansk has ordered all UN aid agencies out of the province along with an unknown number of other international NGOs (Doctors Without Borders, for one, and it’s not clear how many more). The “government” in Donetsk is reportedly considering a similar measure. This could be something as simple as the rebels suddenly deciding that all those (mostly Western) NGOs were a security/spying risk, or it could be a prelude to something worse, like a resumption of fighting. Either way it’s bad news for people living under miserable conditions in eastern Ukraine.

There’s been a flurry of other low-key news around Ukraine over the past couple of days. For example, today Kiev announced that it will start banning incoming flights by Russian airlines as of October 25 and ordered state organizations and companies to stop using all Russian-made products and software. Yesterday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed off on Ukraine’s new official military doctrine, which (understandably, but still provocatively) names Russia as the country’s top national security threat. And, of course, Barack Obama is planning to meet with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly Monday, though there’s a pretty funny back-and-forth going on right now between Obama’s spokespeople, who insist that Ukraine will be the top item on their agenda, and Putin’s, who say that Syria will dominate the meeting and Ukraine will only be discussed “if time allows.”

The fighting in eastern Ukraine has thankfully dropped off considerably in recent weeks, which is why this move to kick out those NGOs is troubling. The most violent thing to happen in Ukraine over the past month plus was actually perpetrated by far right-wing Ukrainian nationalists, who attacked parliament late last month as it was considering a measure to devolve more power to regional governments.

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