UKRAINE: Heavy fighting erupted between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian rebels ahead of an expected announcement of a ceasefire between the two sides on Friday. Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed the possible ceasefire, but Western leaders remained skeptical of his intentions. A week earlier, Putin boasted to an Italian newspaper that he could “take Kiev in two weeks” if he wanted.
During the NATO summit this week, U.S. officials discussed the possibility of new sanctions against Russia, but some countries could go further: NATO military’s commander said some NATO members had agreed to send arms to Ukrainian forces. U.S. President Barack Obama has resisted sending weapons directly from the United States to Ukraine, despite calls from a handful of U.S. lawmakers in both parties to offer such assistance.
Meanwhile, some Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines decried the idea of accepting a ceasefire with Russia, saying it would give Putin more time to prepare a wider assault. “A ceasefire would be a disaster, we would lose everything,” one soldier told Reuters. “By fighting we can resist the invasion and send them back. With a ceasefire they will consolidate and carry on after a while.”
IRAN: From a prison cell in solitary confinement, Iranian pastor Behnam Irani faces 18 new charges related to his Christian ministry in Iran. The new charges include the capital crime of “Mofsed-e-filarz”—“spreading corruption on Earth.”
Authorities first arrested Irani in 2006 for his Christian activities, including conducting church services and telling Muslims about the gospel. In 2011, a judge sentenced Irani to six years in prison for “action against the state.” The pastor has since suffered deteriorating health with scant medical care.
Mervyn Thomas of Christian Solidarity Worldwide said the new charges against Irani—and recent arrests of other Christians in Iran—represent “an indictment of Christianity itself and mark a renewed escalation in Iran’s campaign against Persian Christians under the Rouhani presidency.”
IMMIGRATION: What happens to foreign nationals who enter the United States on student visas? In at least 6,000 cases, the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t know. DHS has admitted it’s lost track of more than 6,000 foreigners who have overstayed their student visas. (More than 1 million foreign students enter the U.S. each year, and some 58,000 overstayed their visas last year.)
We don’t have to spell out the security implications posed by such a lapse, but just for review: The hijacker who flew Flight 77 into the Pentagon on 9/11 entered the United States on a student visa, but never showed up for school.
LONG (AND HARROWING) READ: For a rare, but violent, account of what it’s like to survive an ISIS attack in Iraq, The New York Times profiles one of the few people who have managed to do it.
MAPPING SHERLOCK: For Globe Trot’s student readers (and others) returning this fall to Dickens and Shakespeare, the Literary London Map offers a gorgeous rendering of English literary history in the British capital. Graphic artists have used more than 250 novels to plot where characters from Peter Pan to James Bond would live or roam in London.