This roundup summarises the most important news stories around the world in the last month (March 2022).
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine grinds into a war of attrition, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly voted 141-5 to condemn the invasion and to demand immediate Russian troop withdrawal. The UN also estimates that over four million refugees – almost 10 per cent of its pre-war population – have fled the country, with neighbouring Poland taking in the lion’s share of fleeing Ukrainians (two million). Millions more have been internally displaced and about 10 million have been forced to abandon their homes. There were a number of negotiations, with some tentative agreements over humanitarian corridors for civilians to leave besieged Ukrainian cities, but most ended up deadlocked.
In Russia, following years of persistent government crackdown against him and other activist groups, convicted opposition leader Alexei Navalny – who has protested Russia’s invasion of Ukraine through letters from jail, later posted on social media – was sentenced to nine more years in prison.
In the United States, president Joe Biden’s State of the Union address focused on the invasion and his plans to fight inflation and COVID-19. Separately and economically, Puerto Rico exited bankruptcy after the largest public debt restructuring in US history. The Federal Reserve is also raising the benchmark interest rate in a bid to curb inflation. Finally, in the third year of the pandemic, the global COVID-19 death toll exceeded six million, with the US accounting for one million.
Other political and geopolitical developments
Politically, in Canada, the Liberal Party of prime minister Justin Trudeau secured a deal with the New Democratic Party – including over the federal budget – for his minority government to continue until 2025. The island of Corsica, a territorial collectivity of France, was rocked by protests over the jailing of a nationalist figure. In India, discriminatory court bans and school restrictions on wearing the hijab has resulted in protests, counter-protests, and school closure. In Kenya, the president’s plan to amend the constitution ahead of an election was rejected by the court. And in South Korea, conservative candidate and former prosecutor Yoon Suk-yeol narrowly won the closely-contested presidential election.
Geopolitically, Iran claimed responsibility for missile attacks which fell close to a US consulate complex in northern Iraq. In Jamaica, during a visit by Prince William and his wife and amidst anti-colonial protests, its prime minister announced it would be seeking full independence from Britain. North Korea tested its first intercontinental ballistic missile since 2017. And in the United Kingdom, two British-Iranian nationals were sent home after more than four years of detention over charges of spying and plotting to overthrow the government.
Tragedies and disasters
In Afghanistan, the Taliban government reversed its decision to allow female students to attend secondary school. Other restrictions on girls and women were also imposed, such as banning them from boarding flights without a male chaperone and the segregation of parks. In Australia, the Great Barrier Reef has been hit by widespread bleaching of previously healthy corals, as a result of rising ocean temperatures. Climate change and increased greenhouse gas emissions have stressed corals around the world. In China, a China Eastern Airlines plane carrying 132 crashed in a mountainous region, in the country’s worst aviation disaster in over two decades. No survivors were found.
There were other natural disasters: Argentina (giant ash cloud carrying smoke and debris from wildfires), Australia (worst floods in decades), Ecuador (long, intense rainy reason), and Japan (earthquake causing a tsunami alert and temporarily shutting power off for two million homes). There were also man-made tragedies: Belgium (deaths following celebrations in Brussels), Israel (shootings), Pakistan (explosion at Shia/Shiite mosque, likely carried about by region’s Islamic State affiliate), and Portugal (sinking of a large cargo ship carrying luxury cars, after catching fire in February).