January 2022 global news roundup: Ukraine on geopolitical brink; African military coups; Political violence and journalistic threats; Seeking justice; Disasters in Tonga and around the world

Flag of Ukraine (Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash)

This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last month (January 2022).

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The standoff between Russia and Ukraine continued, with the former amassing more than 100,000 troops along the order and without a diplomatic breakthrough in sight. Ukraine has sought to join the military alliance NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) in the past few years, and ahead of a possible invasion the organisation has been sending military equipment such as ships and fighter jets to Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. Some troops are also on standby. Economic sanctions have been threatened against Russia too.

Ukraine, however, has called on its citizens and allies to not panic over the Russian troop build-up.

African military coups

Burkina Faso’s military ousted its democratically elected president and suspended the constitution as it seized power. This is the fourth coup in Africa in less than a year, following Guinea, Mali, and Sudan. In Sudan, the prime minister resigned following political deadlock and persistent pro-democracy protests against a power-sharing deal brokered with the military, thereby leaving military generals in control.

Political violence and journalistic threats

In Central Asia and Asia, thousands in Kazakhstan protested against surges in the cost of fuel after price controls were lifted, prompting the government to subsequently resign. Over 164 people were killed in the week of unrest and one 5,800 civilians were detained. Russia also sent in reinforcements. In Myanmar, on trial for about a dozen cases, ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi was sentenced to four more years in prison.

In Africa and the Middle East, across eight Nigerian villages, more than 300 armed bandits killed about 200 people. In Syria, Kurdish forces backed by the US fully retook a prison and repelled Islamic State fighters. This was the organisation’s largest offensive since 2019. At least 180 people were killed in the fighting. In Yemen, rebels affiliated with Iran seized a United Arab Emirates (UAE) ship and launched a cyber-attack against an Israeli newspaper. They also used advanced missiles and drones to target the UAE. Relatedly, a Saudi Arabia-led airstrike on a rebel-held prison killed at least 87 people.

And in Hong Kong, news sites have been shutting down in the region, further stifling critical independent journalism as well as freedom of the press.

Seeking justice in Canada, Germany, the UK, and the US

Canada reached its largest class-action settlement to compensate Indigenous children and families harmed and separated by its on-reserve child welfare system. The government also committed to repair the system. In Germany, a former Syrian intelligence offer was sentence to life in prison after a court found him guilty of crimes against humanity under a state-led torture programme during the ongoing Syrian civil war. Charged with crimes against more than 4,000 prisoners, he is the first to be convicted as a ranking official in a foreign criminal court. He had fled Syria in 2012, gained asylum in Germany in 2014, and was subsequently arrested in 2019.

In the United Kingdom, Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II, was stripped of his honorary military titles, royal charities, and royal roles after a United States (US) federal judge allowed a sexual lawsuit against him to proceed. In the US, former Theranos founder and CEO Elizabeth Holmes was found guilty of four counts of criminal fraud. She faces up to 20 years in prison for each count.

In other American news, Apple became the first three-trillion-dollar company. Separately, the first successful pig-to-human transplant marked an important advance to reduce reliance on human organ transplants.

Disasters in Tonga and around the world

A massive eruption of an underwater volcano resulted in tsunamis as well as ash, gas, and steam which made it difficult for the rest of the world to assess the immediate aftermath In Tonga. There were also water contamination and Internet access issues. Nearly all the homes on two islands were destroyed, with at least three deaths.

There were also earthquakes in Afghanistan and Haiti, floods and/or a typhoon in the Philippines and South Africa, and a cliff collapse in Brazil. There was also a gas leak explosion in China, mining explosion in Ghana, bus accident in Russia, and two building fires in the US: In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and New York, New York.

Finally, there was violence in Cameroon (football stadium crowd surge, in addition to a separate nightclub fire), Ethiopia (government strike on an aid camp in the Tigray region), India (stampede at a Hindu shrine), Pakistan (soldiers killed in Taliban raid), Somalia (large explosion amid political standoff and humanitarian crisis), and Ukraine (a serviceman opened fire at a factory).

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