Ukrainian President confirms rebel weapon withdrawal
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday said that the plan to annex Crimea had been formed weeks before a referendum on self-determination took place in the region. Putin in an interview said that he ordered the plan during an all-night meeting on 22 February last year after then Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted. However, he said that the final decision to annex the region was taken only after opinion polls showed 80% of the population wanting to join Russia. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko confirmed that separatist rebels in the Eastern region of the country had withdrawn a significant amount of heavy weapons. Poroshenko had earlier accused the rebels, who are allegedly backed by Russia, of not adhering to the provisions of the ceasefire the two sides had agreed upon. At least 6,000 people are believed to have been killed since the conflict began in April.

US Senators warn Iran over nuclear deal
US Senators on Monday warned Iran against making an agreement with the administration of President Barack Obama. Forty-seven Senators belonging to the Republican Party sent an open to letter to the “leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran”, saying that any agreement made without the approval of the US legislature could be reversed “with the stroke of a pen”. The letter came in the wake of the announcement that Secretary of State John Kerry would return to Switzerland in hopes of completing the framework of the agreement. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that the letter was an attempt to undermine Obama’s ability to conduct foreign policy.

Merkel urges Japan to confront wartime conduct
German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday urged Japan to confront its wartime conduct, saying that Germany had done the same to reconcile with the victims of its Nazi government. The statement came amid speculation that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would water down the expressions of remorse in an address to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Abe has reportedly removed the words, “heartfelt apology” and a reference to Japan’s, “colonial rule and aggression” from the address that will be made this summer.

Tibetan woman burns herself before uprising anniversary
A Tibetan woman on Monday burned herself to death, a day before the anniversary of a failed uprising against Chinese rule in the region. The woman, named as Norchuk, was reported to have set herself on fire in the town of Trotsuk in the Chinese region of Sichuan. The self-immolation was said to be the first one this year and the 137th since 2008, according to Radio Free Asia. However, an official of the Communist Party in the region said denied the reports, saying that there had not been any self-immolations in recent days. The failed uprising, which took place in 1959, had forced the Dalai Lama to flee into exile in India.

Swedish Minister’s speech at Arab League blocked by Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia on Monday blocked a speech to be made at a meeting of the League of Arab States by Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom. The country reportedly blocked the speech due to Sweden’s criticism of its human rights record. Wallstrom had in January criticised the flogging of Saudi blogger Raif Badawai, calling it a “cruel attempt to silence modern forms of expression”. The Saudi government, however, refused to comment on the issue. The Nordic country is at present reviewing the possible renewal of a five-year deal to supply military material and training to the Arab nation.