February 2022 global news roundup: Russia invades Ukraine; COVID-19 and its persistent global impact; Positive and negative socio-political developments; Advancement of women’s and environmental rights

Flag of Ukraine (Photo by Max Kukurudziak on Unsplash)

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

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Ukraine remains at the centre of global news attention. Earlier this month, United States (US) intelligence suggested Russian development of false propaganda materials, potentially as a pretext for a Ukrainian invasion. In an escalatory move, Russia then said it would recognise two regions in Ukraine held by Moscow-backed separatists, sending troops into the Donbas region. In response, the European Union, the United Kingdom (UK), and the US announced sanctions, threatening more with further invasion.

In the past week, Russia launched a full-scale invasion into Ukraine, which has been met with stiff Ukrainian resistance. The first round of talks between both countries failed to ease conditions on the ground, and around the world countries and blocs sought to isolate Russian president Vladimir Putin and his country, especially economically.

COVID-19 and its persistent global impact

A state of emergency was declared in Canada’s capital following the blockade of parliament by thousands of people and truckers rallying under the “Freedom Convoy” banner against COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Prime minister Justin Trudeau later invoked an emergency law for the first time in 50 years in an attempt to stop the anti-government protests, as the Ottawa police chief stepped down following criticisms of the police’s inaction against the trucker demonstrators.

With COVID-19 “closed-loop” safety measures in place, the 2022 Winter Olympics began in Beijing, China. Controversy centred around a star Russian figure skater who was cleared to compete despite failing a drug test in December last year. This also happened as Russian athletes competed under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee, following a multi-year ban on Russia over a previous doping scandal.

In Hong Kong, amid its latest and most serious COVID-19 outbreak, its chief executive election was postponed to May. And in the UK Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning British monarch, marked seven decades on the throne, as it was announced that she contracted the virus.

Positive and negative socio-political developments

Positively, prime minister Naftali Bennett became the first Israeli leader to visit the Gulf nation of Bahrain. In Mali, French troops will withdraw after nine years of fighting against Islamist militants. North Korea launched seven long-range missile tests in January, including its longest-range missile since 2017, with the intent of pressuring the US over stalled nuclear negotiations. In Syria, the US announced the death of the Islamic State leader – who is responsible for a recent prison assault and a genocide in Iraq – during a raid. At least 13 people died, with no US casualties. And in the US, a woman, the first female patient, appeared to be cured of an HIV infection, providing researchers some clues to beat a very resilient virus via medical treatment.

Negatively, in Guinea-Bissau, an attempted coup in this West African country follows a number of successful and failed ones in the region. The president later said the situation was under control. In Malawi, the first case of wild polio in Africa in the last five years was reported. And in the Vatican, in response to a January report that he had previously failed to act against sexual abuse cases when he was the Munich archbishop from 1977 to 1982, the pope acknowledged that he had erred.

There were other developments. Ethiopia’s state of emergency was lifted, following easing war tensions and the withdrawal of Tigray fighters to their region. In Portugal, the Socialist Party won re-election with enough seats to govern without a coalition, on plans to boost the country’s economy.

Advancement of women’s and environmental rights

With women’s rights, Colombia became the third country in Latin America to decriminalise abortion. The ruling means three of the four most populous Latin American countries will now have expanded access to abortion. And in the US, women football players reached a settlement with the sport federation over an equal pay lawsuit.

With environmental rights, a United Nations report detailed an “unavoidable” increase in climate change risk to humans over the next 18 years, with increased frequency of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods, and heat waves. This happened with especially serious storms and floods in Brazil. There were avalanches in Austria, a landslide in Colombia, rainstorm-triggered mudslides in Ecuador, and a cyclone in Madagascar.

There were other incidents in Afghanistan (consumption of toxic-laced cocaine), Greece (dead ice climbers), India (coal mine collapse and well accident), Japan (factory fire), Spain (sinking of trawler), and the US (shootings).

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