In his first visit to China since 2009, President Barack Obama has joined the APEC Summit Conference being held this week in Beijing. On November 10, Obama told listeners at the conference that he hopes to create more jobs in America's stuttering economy, and that he wants China to "do well." While little headway is expected for the forthcoming talks he will have with Chinese leader Xi Jingping on issues such as cybersecurity, human rights, and China territorial pressures on Japan and the Phillipines, some inroads on the economic front are expected.
 
While Obama is on his weeklong junket to Asia, which is part of what he promised early in his administration of what he called his "pivot" toward the emerging economic powers in Asia, disturbing news continues to come from Eastern Europe.
 
More heavily armed convoys have been spotted in Donetsk, the area in eastern Ukraine which saw heavy fighting over the November 8-9 weekend. Columns of unmarked vehicles, troops, and heavy weaponry such as howitzers, anti-aircraft guns and mobile radar were spotted, sparking concern in Kyiv, Brussels, Washington, and from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
 
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko condemned the Russian incursion in statements he made on November 7.
 
Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) director Valentyn Nalyvaychenko has said that Ukraine's former counterintelligence chief, Volodymyr Bik, was arrested on suspicion of having helped "a foreign country to prepare saboteur activities in Ukraine." Bik had served during the government of ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
 In April 2014, despite having fled to Russia, Yanukovych declared that it had been a "mistake" to invite Russian troops into Ukraine, resulting in the occupation of Crimea. Separatists linked to Russia appear to be unabashed by the steady human cost of the conflict.
 
Russia’s RIA Novosti state-controlled news service quoted Andrei Purgin, deputy premier of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, as saying that Ukraine had begun a large-scale offensive against the separatists in the east. Purgin said he sees “all-out war” and said Ukrainian forces had broken the Sept. 5 truce, according to RIA. According to LifeNews, Igor Girkin, a Russian who fought for the rebels as defense minister for the Donetsk People’s Republic, has called on Russian President Vladimir Putin to “take actions to stop this murderous war." Girkin added, “The people who came to power in Kiev are the enemies of Russia.” He said that the Russian population in Ukraine “needs to be defended.”
 
With the Russian ruble continuing the slide stemming from the Ukraine crisis, Putin told a business audience during a summit meeting in Beijing that Russia's "fundamentals in terms of currency reserves and balance of payments remain at good levels" and "that allows us to control the situation without taking any extraordinary emergency steps." So far, the White House has not said whether a meeting between President Barack Obama and Putin is in the cards for the conference. Russia has trebled the number of challenges to NATO and European airspace, in comparison to 2013. Russian bombers have challenged NATO partners in the Baltic Sea, for example, while a suspected Russian submarine was shadowed by the Swedish navy in coastal waters in October.
 
The European Leadership Network published a report titled "Dangerous Brinkmanship" in which it outlines the "visible increase" in the "intensity and gravity of incidents involving Russian and Western militaries and security agencies." It describes the situation as "ripe with potential for escalation."  German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the situation in eastern Ukraine as deteriorating and said that "we must call upon all those involved in this conflict, as well as the Russian side, to return again to the terms of the Minsk protocol."


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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