Foresight News rounds up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…
The coming week will undoubtedly be dominated by events in Ukraine as world leaders watch on nervously. Russia’s invasion on 24 February marked what NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described as “a grave moment” for the continent, leaving Europe facing the prospect of the largest open conflict since the Second World War. Talks between world leaders are likely to be commonplace across the next seven days, as the global community waits to see if Russian troops are pulled back from their “special military operation”.
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A regular session of the UN Human Rights Council opens in Geneva, with Ukraine likely to dominate the first few days. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who has been increasingly vocal in condemning Russia’s actions, speaks on Monday morning. A series of ministerial interventions follow over the next three days, with Lithuanian President Gitanas Nausėda, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly all set to speak on Monday, according to the latest draft agenda. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due to speak on Tuesday, when interventions from Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken are also planned. Germany’s Annalena Baerbock and Ukraine’s Dmytro Kuleba are due to speak on Wednesday.
Scotland and Wales are the latest countries to introduce new relaxations to their coronavirus restrictions as the UK accelerates its plan to begin living alongside the disease. From today, Scotland does away with its Covid certification scheme, while Wales lifts the requirement for the use of face coverings in some indoor settings. Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed all Scotland’s Covid legal requirements will be lifted next month, though Mark Drakeford has held off on making a similar commitment until Wales’ next formal review.
The world’s largest telecoms event returns for a first in-person gathering since the start of the pandemic as Barcelona welcomes 50,000 people to this year’s Mobile World Congress to see the likes of Huawei, Samsung and Nokia showcase new products. There’s a strong focus on 5G on the agenda this year, with keynotes from telco CEOs dominating the opening day.
The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse publishes its report into allegations of abuse at residential schools, marking the last of the sectoral reports to be produced. The Inquiry has already released a series of devastating findings over the course of the last 18 months, its most recent report in early February uncovering “extensive failures” by local authorities and police in tackling organised abuse networks. The Inquiry’s final report is expected to be published later in the year.
National rail fare increases come into effect after the Department for Transport announced the 3.8% increase last December. The DfT said the rise, capped below the retail price inflation of 7.1%, would prevent large fare increases for passengers, though commuters already struggling with higher household bills will feel the pinch from any price hikes. In London, a 5.4% increase for bus and rail travel takes effect after Mayor Sadiq Khan announced the biggest annual TfL increase in a decade.
Joe Biden delivers his first State of the Union address, and with this year’s speech taking place on the day of the first primary of the midterms the President will be keen to highlight his achievements and boost shaky Democratic prospects. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, his Supreme Court nominee and progress fighting COVID-19 are all likely to be highlighted, though he’s also likely to be forced to address soaring gas prices and record-breaking inflation. Mention of the Russian invasion of Ukraine may be unavoidable, though precedent indicates that domestic priorities will dominate the address.
The Foreign Office’s approach to the Russia-Ukraine crisis will be discussed at length as Liz Truss appears before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Despite numerous attempts to calm tensions between Moscow and Kyiv with diplomatic interventions, the UK’s efforts ultimately proved fruitless as Russian forces launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The government has already imposed what it describes as “punishing” economic sanctions on the Kremlin, but the Foreign Secretary is now likely to be pressed on the UK’s role in the emerging humanitarian crisis.
Students stage a nationwide strike today to demand the return of free higher education, with the action coinciding with the final day of a strike by university staff over pay and conditions in the sector. The NUS is also staging a demonstration and mass “teach in” in central London as part of its New Vision for Education campaign to transform HE provision in England.
The Queen is scheduled to host an in-person diplomatic reception at Windsor Castle in what would be her first engagement since contracting Covid. Her Majesty postponed several engagements following her positive test on February 20, although she has so far continued with “light duties”.
Voters in Birmingham head to the polls to elect a new MP for the Erdington constituency following the untimely death of Labour’s Jack Dromey in January. The former trade union official was first elected in 2010 and was returned at the next three general elections, though his majority was reduced by almost four thousand in 2019. Labour’s Paulette Hamilton, a local councillor, faces the same Conservative candidate, Robert Alden, who stood against Dromey that year, while former MP Dave Nellist is attempting to return to Parliament for the first time since 1992.
The Court of Arbitration for Sport hears the latest stage in the ongoing legal battle between Nantes and Cardiff City over the transfer fee for Emiliano Sala. Cardiff signed Sala from the French side for 17 million Euros in January of 2019, though the Argentine striker was then killed in a plane crash as he flew to link up with his new team. The Bluebirds have refused all requests to begin paying the transfer fee thus far, claiming Sala was not officially a Cardiff player when he died.
The Paralympics get underway in Beijing as the Bird’s Nest Stadium once again hosts the opening ceremony. Paralympics GB will be desperate to give British fans something to cheer after their Team GB colleagues secured just two curling medals in the Winter Games. UK Sport has already set our athletes the target of between five and nine medals, following a haul of seven in PyeongChang four years ago.
Sticking with China, the country’s annual “two sessions” opens with a meeting of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, followed on Saturday by the National People’s Congress. The NPC session, at which Premier Li Keqiang presents his annual Government Work Report, will likely be particularly closely watched for any insights into Bejing’s thinking regarding Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its potential impact on China’s plans for Taiwan. The meetings are also the last major set-piece political event ahead of the quinquennial Communist Party National Congress set for the autumn, when Xi Jinping is expected to be appointed for an unprecedented third term as party leader.
Manchester City take on two-time champions Chelsea in the 10th edition of the Women’s League Cup Final which is hosted this year by AFC Wimbledon at the club’s new Cherry Red Records Stadium. Chelsea have dominated fixtures between the two sides in recent years and won a narrow victory over City in their last league meeting in February.
The inaugural World Defense Show opens in Riyadh as Saudi Arabia hosts its first arms fair in an effort by the kingdom to gradually reduce military imports and boost domestic producers. The UK arms sales unit – UK Defence and Security Exports – will nevertheless have a presence at the event, possibly prompting further discussions around the ethics of selling weapons to Saudi Arabia given its human rights record in Yemen.
The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.
Picture: Gerardo Vieyra/NurPhoto via Getty Images