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February 16, 2024

News diary 19 – 25 February: Final Assange extradition hearing, two years since Ukraine invasion

A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News.

By Foresight News

A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News.

Leading the week 

The final hearing in the long-running extradition case of Julian Assange is due to be heard at the High Court on Tuesday and Wednesday (20 and 21 February).

The founder of Wikileaks has spent nearly five years in Belmarsh prison following his arrest outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, where he lived for seven years to avoid extradition to the US on charges of hacking Government computers and espionage; material released by Wikileaks contained thousands of documents containing classified information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  

Supporters of Assange, who are expected to assemble outside the High Court on both days, argue the charges are politically motivated, and that Assange was doing his job as a journalist. Should his appeal fail, he faces up to 175 years in jail in the US for charges under the espionage act, with his wife fearing he will die behind bars. The matter has been further complicated by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calling for Assange’s return to the country of his birth. 

The NHS faces major disruption once again next week as junior doctors in both England and Wales prepare to begin extended strike action. Doctors in Wales begin a 72-hour walkout at 7am on Wednesday (22 February) in protest at the Welsh Government’s most recent pay offer of 5%, which the British Medical Association (BMA) derides as a real-terms pay cut. Then, at 7am on Thursday (23 February), over 46,000 junior doctors in England walk out for the tenth round of action in the BMA’s dispute with the UK Government.  

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The long-running dispute has dragged on as the union seeks “full pay-restoration” for real-terms declines in pay since 2008/9, which it says amounts to 26.1% after taking inflation into account. The strike, potentially the last under the current mandate, lasts until 7am on 28 February and comes after the BMA claimed that the Government failed to meet a deadline of 8 February to present a “credible” pay offer which would add to the 8.8% rise already awarded to junior doctors last year. Union leaders have since offered to suspend the strikes in return for further negotiating time. 

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With households still feeling the pinch as the Budget approaches, Thursday’s confirmation that the UK has entered recession added to the pressure on Jeremy Hunt to deliver some good news on 6 March. An unexpected hold in inflation on Wednesday does, however, augur well for the prospect of interest rate cuts in the coming months, and there’s expected to be another boost on Friday (23 February) when Ofgem announces the next adjustment to its energy price cap. Analysts are predicting that bills could fall by as much as £300 in the next quarter, and while the change may not be directly the Chancellor’s doing any positive news will be welcomed as Hunt and Rishi Sunak battle to meet those economic targets

And as MPs return to Westminster following an event-filled recess, over in the House of Lords the current stage of scrutiny of the government’s Rwanda bill concludes on Monday (19 February). 

The bill received criticism from all sides of the House over the first two days of debate this week, though an attempt by former Labour frontbencher Shami Chakrabarti backed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby to allow the UN oversight of deportations was dropped on Wednesday. But with nearly 100 amendments to consider before the bill can proceed to the next stage – when peers vote on what form the bill will take when it’s passed back to the House of Commons – ministers should probably brace for more headaches over the flagship immigration policy. 

Looking abroad 

The Republican primary on Saturday (24 February) in Nikki Haley’s home state of South Carolina looks increasingly like it may end up being decisive if she is to stand a chance of maintaining a viable challenge to Donald Trump’s nomination as the party’s candidate this November.

After a disappointing result in New Hampshire and her brutal loss in the Nevada primary, Haley is staring down the barrel of another embarrassment in the Palmetto State next week that may test her resolve for staying in what is becoming an increasingly bitter and likely unwinnable contest against Trump. 

After Haley was heckled last year when she appeared at CPAC, she is skipping this year’s MAGA-centric gathering, which runs Thursday through Saturday (22-24 February). In addition to Trump, whose remarks are scheduled for the final day, speakers this year include former UK prime minister Liz Truss as well as Nayib Bukele, the recently re-elected strongman leader of El Salvador, and Argentina’s new anarcho-capitalist president Javier Milei. 

The conflict in Ukraine, meanwhile, is likely to remain in focus in the runup to the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion on Saturday (24 February) as President Zelenskyy seeks to counter signs of “solidarity fatigue”, notably among House Republicans in the United States.

Next week also marks the 10-year anniversary of the Maidan revolution that saw then-President Viktor Yanukovych flee Kyiv on 21 February a day after Russian forces began their operation to annex Crimea on 20 February. Dozens of pro-European protesters in Maidan were killed by pro-regime snipers in the bloodiest day of the months-long standoff over Yanukovych’s last-minute decision not to sign an association agreement with the European Union. 

Kyiv’s ongoing military and diplomatic struggles will loom large as G20 foreign ministers – including Russia’s Sergey Lavrov – gather in Rio de Janeiro on Tuesday and Wednesday (20-21 February). There have been suggestions ahead of the gathering that UK foreign secretary David Cameron, who’s said to be also planning to attend a UN Security Council meeting scheduled for Friday (23 February), could be preparing for a muscular encounter with his Russian counterpart. The death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, announced by the country’s federal prison service on Friday, is now also likely to be a topic of discussion at the meeting. 

Finally, space history will made next week if the IM-1 mission‘s Odysseus lander successfully touches down on the Moon as planned on Thursday (22 February) and becomes the first commercial mission to achieve a soft landing on the lunar surface.

The mission, which launched on Thursday aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, is the second attempt this year by a private company after Astrobotic’s Peregrine mission suffered a propulsion system failure that prevented it from attempting its lunar landing. Assuming all goes to plan, Odysseus will touch down near the Moon’s south pole, an area of particular interest for deposits of water ice that will be important for NASA’s future manned Artemis missions. 

Also look out for 

February 19 

  • Grant Shapps answers departmental questions as House of Commons returns from recess 
  • Tim Davie at select committee session on BBC Across the UK implementation 
  • Read Sea naval mission “deadline” at EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting 
  • Trial of Devon police officer Matthew Tregale begins 
  • ITV airs Covid drama Breathtaking 
  • Sergey Lavrov visits Cuba 

February 20 

  • Donald Trump town hall from South Carolina airs on Fox News 
  • Chris Heaton-Harris at select committee session on Windsor Framework 
  • Alex Salmond at select committee session on intergovernmental relations 
  • Food and environmental agency heads address NFU Conference 
  • Champions League round of 16 continues 

February 21 

  • PMQs and SNP motion on Gaza ceasefire in the House of Commons 
  • Final pre-Budget public sector finance statistics 
  • Met Office at select committee session on extreme weather 
  • Bristol City council meeting on Edward Colston statue future 
  • G20 foreign ministers meeting 
  • Porto v Arsenal in Champions League round of 16 
  • Formula One preseason testing begins 

February 22 

  • Donald Trump at NRB Presidential Forum 
  • Opening statements in trial of armourer over death on Rust movie set 
  • Ofgem chief at future energy event 
  • London Assembly Mayor’s Question Time 
  • Sentencing of man guilty of harassing Barry Gardiner MP 
  • British Transport Police PEEL report 
  • UN Security Council discusses situation in the Middle East 

February 23 

  • UN General Assembly and UN Security Council discuss situation in Ukraine 
  • Donald Trump at Black Conservative Federation Honors Gala 
  • Michael Gove addresses CCA Local Government conference 
  • Welsh Conservative Party Spring Conference 
  • Statistics on Births in England and Wales (2022) 
  • Trial of men charged with murder of Jam Master Jay expected to conclude 
  • India v England 4th test begins 

February 24 

  • Two years ago: Russia invaded Ukraine 
  • UK leads Joint Warrior NATO exercise 
  • CPAC final general session 
  • Reform UK Spring Rally 
  • Screen Actors Guild Awards 
  • Premier League season continues 
  • Ireland v Wales and Scotland v England in Six Nations third round 
  • Saudi Arabia hosts world’s richest horse race 

February 25 

  • Chelsea v Liverpool in Carabao Cup final 
  • David Attenborough’s Secret World of Sound airs 
  • Early voting begins in Russia presidential election 
  • Parliamentary elections in Belarus 

Statistics, reports and results 

February 19 

February 20 

  • Register of political donations 
  • People’s Bank of China loan prime rate announcement 
  • Results from: Barclays, Carrefour, InterContinental Hotels, Home Depot, BHP Group, Medtronic 

February 21 

  • DWP cold weather payments 
  • OECD quarterly growth figures 
  • Results from: BAE Systems, Glencore, Rio Tinto, Heathrow, Nvidia 

February 22 

  • Divorces in England and Wales (2022) 
  • NEET statistics 
  • Flash UK PMI 
  • EU inflation 
  • Human Rights Watch report on transnational repression 
  • Results from: Lloyds Banking Group, Iberdrola, Repsol, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz, Qantas, WPP Group, Mondi, Nestle 

February 23 

  • GfK consumer confidence barometer 
  • Q4 GDP for Germany 
  • Results from: Standard Chartered, BASF, AngloGold Ashanti 

Anniversaries and awareness days 

February 19 

  • Presidents’ Day (US) 

February 20 

  • 10 years ago: violence escalated dramatically in Ukraine’s Maidan square 

February 21 

  • Two years ago: Putin announced Russia would recognise breakaway Donbas regions 
  • 100 years ago: Robert Mugabe born 
  • International Mother Language Day 

February 22 

  • World Thinking Day 

February 23 

  • Defender of the Fatherland Day (Russia) 
  • Work Your Proper Hours Day 
  • Centrepoint Sleep Out 
  • Four years ago: Ahmaud Arbery killed 

February 24 

  • International Sword Swallower’s Day 

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

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Select and enter your email address Weekly insight into the big strategic issues affecting the future of the news industry. Essential reading for media leaders every Thursday. Your morning brew of news about the world of news from Press Gazette and elsewhere in the media. Sent at around 10am UK time. Our weekly does of strategic insight about the future of news media aimed at US readers. A fortnightly update from the front-line of news and advertising. Aimed at marketers and those involved in the advertising industry.
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