- United States (US) President Joe Biden announced last Wednesday (June 29), that the US is planning to step up long-term military presence in Europe in response to Russia’s actions. Biden shared that efforts could include creating a new permanent army headquarters in Poland. In addition, new US warships will go to Spain, fighter jet squadrons to Britain, ground troops to Romania, air defence units to Germany and Italy, and a wide range of assets to the Baltics. At the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) summit, Biden emphasised NATO’s commitment to “defend every inch” of its territory.
- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced last Monday (June 27) that there would be more measures in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. These measures could include additional sanctions such as bans on the export of technologies that might aid Russia’s defence manufacturing and sanctions against Russian state-sponsored disinformation and propaganda agents and entities. In response, Russia sanctioned 43 Canadian citizens in a tit-for-tat retaliation.
- 53 migrants died in Texas after being trapped in an abandoned truck last Tuesday (June 28). The truck was carrying migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salador. This is the deadliest smuggling incident on US soil, and officials are expecting more of its kind as temperatures in Texas continue to increase along with the volume of border crossers. Four people have been charged thus far: the driver, Homero Zamorano Jr and accomplices, Christian Martinex, Juan Francisco D’Luna -Bilbao and Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez. Texas is to set up highway checkpoints to investigate trucks driving across the state.
- The US delegation led by President Joe Biden’s chief hostage negotiator failed to secure the release of Americans detained in Venezuela, causing them to end their visit to Venezuela last Thursday (June 30). The US delegation’s visit to Venezuela was to press for the handover of prisoners and to persuade President Nicolas Maduro’s government to restart stalled negotiations with the country’s opposition. Biden is facing criticism that the US approach was too conciliatory towards Maduro.
- The US Supreme Court ruled 5-4 against resuming former US President Trump’s “remain in Mexico” policy last Thursday (June 30). This overturned a lower court’s decision, requiring US President Joe Biden to restart Trump’s policy. Biden is now emboldened to pursue a more “humane” approach at the southern border despite Republican accusation for the immigration crisis. Trump’s policy was aimed at preventing migrants and asylum seekers from being released into the US to await immigration proceedings, instead returning them to Mexico.
- The government of Ecuador and Indigenous protest leaders reached an agreement last Thursday (June 30) to end mass demonstrations that have been occurring since mid-June. The protests began on June 13 due to frustrations over soaring fuel prices and costs of living, as well as the socioeconomic policies of right-wing President Guillermo Lasso’s administration. The agreement also includes decreasing the price of fuel and other concessions to address these frustrations.
- At least 49 people died in a fire during an apparent riot in a prison in the southwestern Colombian city of Tulua, said prison authorities last Tuesday (June 28). General Tito Castellanos, the head of the national prisons agency, shared that authorities were investigating whether prisoners lit their mattresses on fire as an escape attempt, or to cover another situation. Castellanos highlights that the Tulua prison has a total of 1,267 inmates, of which 180 were in the cell block where the fire occurred.
- Peruvian authorities announced last Thursday (June 30) that firefighters managed to control a forest fire near the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu. The fire that occurred last Tuesday (June 28) destroyed about 100 acres of land and was said to be caused by farmers who were clearing land to grow crops. Peruvian authorities said dozens of firefighters and police officers managed to tame 90 per cent of the fire, adding that the Machu Picchu itself had not been affected.
- Ecuador’s President Guillermo Lasso survived an impeachment vote by opposition lawmakers to remove him last Tuesday (June 28). The opposition-led congress had sought to remove right-wing Lasso over the political commotion caused by protests. However, their motion garnered only 80 out of 92 votes needed.
- Colombia’s truth commission called on the government to stop focusing on prohibiting illicit drugs last Tuesday (June 28). This is because it aims to become a global leader in strict legal regulation, moving forward from the nation’s decades-long civil conflict in which illicit drugs have been a cause of violence. The recommended new approach to combating the cultivation of illicit crops is to centre more on sustainable development and less on the eradication of coca which is the base plant of cocaine.
- Indonesia, South-east Asia’s largest economy, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a major oil producer, signed a free trade agreement last Friday (July 1). The agreement will see the removal or reduced tariffs on most goods traded between the two countries such as Indonesian palm oil, food products, Emirati petrochemicals, plastics and steel. According to Emirati Economy Minister Abdullah bin Touq, the deal could increase bilateral non-oil trade to US$10 billion (S$14 billion) within five years. The UAE has been planning to strengthen trade ties with Indonesia as part of its ambition to double its own economy by the end of the decade. Meanwhile, Indonesian Trade Minister Zulkifli Hasan said that Jakarta is expecting more UAE investment in Indonesia.
- A massive landslide occurred in the Noney district of the north-eatern Indian state of Manipur last Wednesday (June 29), killing at least 20 people. The landslide occurred at a railway construction site, a result of the unprecedented rainfalls that have been showering India’s north-eastern states and neighbouring Bangladesh. Security forces and disaster relief teams are still in the midst of rescuing dozens more feared to be trapped under the debris. Most victims uncovered were reserve soldiers from the Territorial Army who had been working on the railway project.
- Thailand deployed its fighter jets near its border with Myanmar last Thursday (June 30), where a plane was detected in its airspace. According to air force spokesperson Air Vice Marshal Prapat Sonjaidee, two F-16 fighter jets were sent to the area upon notification of the airspace violation. The Thai air force adds that it had instructed one of its attaches in Yangon to warn relevant agencies in Myanmar.
- President Xi Jinping swore in John Lee as Hong Kong’s next chief executive last Friday (Jul 1) during the 25th-anniversary celebrations of Hong Kong’s handover from Britain. Lee oversaw the police response to the city’s huge democracy protests in 2019 and is the first security policy expert to run the China-ruled international financial hub. The 1997 British handover saw Beijing promising Hong Kong wide-ranging autonomy, unfettered individual rights and judicial independence until at least 2047. In his speech, Xi hailed China’s rule over Hong Kong and said that it’s “true democracy” started then.
- The region around Tokyo hit its seventh straight day of temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius last Friday (July 1). Energy supplies are said to remain tight, with prices soaring high. In Japan, the city of Isesaki hit 40.3 degrees Celsius, the highest in Japan so far this year, and several other towns just north of the capital hit 40.1 degrees Celsius and 40 degrees Celsius. These record breaking temperatures have been happening in eastern Japan for a week. In response, the Japanese government prompted citizens to cut power usage as much as possible.
- The Moscow-imposed military-civilian administration in Ukraine’s Kherson region said it has begun preparation for a referendum on joining Russia last Wednesday (June 29). The date for the vote is not confirmed but Kirill Stremousov, Deputy Head of the Russian-backed administration, said that the vote is expected to happen in “the coming half year”.
- The first two of more than 1,100 looted Benin Bronzes were returned to Nigeria by German authorities last Friday (July 1). When the British invaded the Kingdom of Benin in 1897, soldiers stole about 5,000 artefacts which landed in museums around Europe and the US. German Foregin Minister Annalena Baerbock said at the Berlin ceremony marking the transfer that “this is a story of European colonialism. We should not forget that Germany played an active role in this chapter of history.” Nigerian Foreign Minister Zubairu Dada and Culture Minister Lai Mohammed were present to personally take back the artefacts.
- Ukraine praised North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) last Wednesday (June 29) for their “clear-eyed stance” on Russia, for inviting Finland and Sweden to be members, and for NATO countries’ increased efforts to counter Russian aggression. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said “an equally strong and active position on Ukraine will help to protect the Euro-Atlantic security and stability.” NATO leaders are to pose Russia as the most imminent and prominent threat to their security.
- The Group of Seven (G7) nations announced at the annual G7 Summit held last Tuesday (June 28), that there would be a ban on imports of Russian gold. They are also considering a ban on transporting Russian oil. These are to aid efforts of holding Russia accountable for its war in Ukraine. The Summit also saw the G7 nations express their concerns about the looming economic crisis as growth slows and inflation soars. Additionally, they pledged US$4.5 billion (S$6.28 billion) to fight hunger. However, activists and non-governmental organisations have protested that the sum falls short of the United Nations World Food Programme’s need of US$22.2 billion (S$31 billion).
- The International Criminal Court charged three suspects of the 2008 Russia-Georgia five-day war with war crimes last Thursday (June 30). The Russo-Georgian war occurred over the pro-Russian breakaway region South Ossetia, which Georgia considered part of their territory, set against Russian insistence of its independence. The suspects identified were Russians Mikhail Mindzaev, 66 and Gamlet Guchmazov, 45, and Georgian Georgiyevich Sanakoev, 46. Mindzaev was the Minister of Internal Affairs of the de-facto South Ossetian administration while Guchmazov was in charge of the detention centre. Sanakoev was the Presidential Representative for Human rights in the South Ossetian administration.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin announced last Thursday (June 30), that Moscow was open to having dialogues on strategic stability and nuclear non-proliferation, but that “such talks with Washinton were [not] on the cards for now”. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov confirmed there had been no direct contact between Putin and US President Joe Biden since Russia launched a “special military operation” in Ukraine. Russia and the US are the world’s largest nuclear powers, with a total estimate of 11,000 nuclear warheads.
- The French court handed Salah Abdeslam a life sentence last Wednesday (June 29), after finding him guilty on terrorism and murder charges. Abdeslam is the lone survivor of the Islamist squad that killed 130 people in the Nov 13, 2015 Paris attacks. While Abdeslam claimed he had second thoughts on detonating the explosives on his vest, the French court instead found that his vest malfunctioned.
- Indirect talks last Wednesday (June 29) on salvaging a 2015 nuclear pact between Tehran and Washington were unsuccessful. The Arab-Israeli threat to the precarious balance of power in the Middle East is pushing Iran to pursue nuclear talks with world powers. However, US officials reported minimal chances of reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal. The alternative to diplomacy could lead to war in the region, especially in light of the warming relations between Israel and its former Arab foes which would tilt the precarious balance of power in the Middle East away from Iran.
- The Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on donors to cut funding to Palestinian security forces and for the International Criminal Court to investigate ‘crimes against humanitiy’ last Thursday (June 30). The HRW report revealed Palestinian authorities in the occupied West bank and Gaza had arbitrarily arrested and systematically tortured critics and opponents. The report came after Nizar Banat, a prominent critic of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, was beaten to death in custody; sparking days of protests which were violently suppressed by Palestinian secruity forces.
- Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, voted last Thursday (June 30) to dissolve itself, readying the country for the election on Nov 1. This would be Israel’s fifth election in less than four years. Yair Lapid, Israel’s foreign minister and architect of the outgoing coalition government is set to become the interim prime minister, taking over Naftali Bennett. This would mark the end of the year-long experiment on the eight political parties trying to find common ground to overcome the political gridlock that originated from Israel’s protracted political crisis — former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ongoing corruption trial.
- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan finally agreed to Sweden and Finland’s membership bid to NATO after securing a 10-point agreement last Tuesday (June 26) ahead of the NATO summit. The agreement stated that “Finland and Sweden confirm that the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] is a proscribed terrorist organisation” and that the nordic countries vow to not provide support to the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a PKK offshoot in Syria part of the United States-led alliance against ISIL (ISIS) and to extradite the suspects to Turkey.
- The United States (US) military carried out a raid in Syria’s Idlib province on Abu Hamzah al Yemeni, senior leader of al-Qaeda-aligned Hurras al-Din last Monday (June 27). He was riding alone on his motorcycle until he was targeted with two rockets. The US Central Command shared that “the removal of this senior leader will disrupt al-Qaeda’s ability to carry out attacks against US citizens, our partners and innocent civilians around the world.” Hurras al-Din was founded in 2008 by al-Qaeda supporters. There was no report of civilian casualties.
- Iran submitted a membership application to the group of emerging economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) last Monday (June 27). Russia has stepped up efforts to forge closer ties with Asia, South America and the Middle East in light of the increasing sanctions imposed by the West over its invasion of Ukraine. The West doubled down on their unwavering support for Ukraine last Monday (June 27) as well, after 28 civilians were killed in several Russian attacks.
- Thousands of Sudanese took to the streets in Sudan’s capital Khartoum last Friday (July 1), following the killing of nine people in demonstrations held last Thursday (June 30). Protestors have centred in front of the Al-Joda hospital, which currently hosts many injured civilians from the demonstrations, according to Al Jazeera’s Hiba Morgan. These protests against the nation’s ruling generals have been occurring almost weekly ever since the Oct 25 coup last year that blocked off the nation’s transition towards democracy. Nonetheless, Morgan claimed that protestors would “continue to voice their anger at the military and to demand that they hand over power to a civilian government.”
- Demonstrators in Ghana’s capital continued to protest against inflation and other economic issues since last Tuesday (June 28). Ghana, which used to be one of the largest economies in Africa, experienced inflation of 27.6 per cent in May this year. Despite governmental efforts to strengthen the local currency and avoid a debt crisis, the frustration of Ghanians having to bear the brunt of the economic downturn led to hundreds demonstrating against price hikes and the tax on electronic payments.
- Sudan’s ministry announced last Monday (June 27) that it would recall its ambassador to Ethiopia for consultations following the killing of seven Sudanese soldiers. Khartoum accused Addis Ababa of capturing the soldiers from Sudan and executing them in Ethiopia, where their bodies were then displayed to the public, according to Sudanese military. In response, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry claimed that facts of the incident were misrepresented and that the deaths resulted from violent conflict. Tensions between Sudan and Ethiopia have increased due to the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and the construction of the hydropower dam on the Blue Nile.
- The United Nations (UN) envoy in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) warned last Wednesday (June 29) that fighting in the east of the country could worsen. Historical grievances between the DRC and Rwanda have been aggravated, with the DRC accusing Rwanda for supporting the fighter group “M23”, that resumed heavy fighting against the military in eastern DRC in May. Even though Rwanda denied doing so, there have been anti-Rwandan movements circulating on social media in DRC’s capital Kinshasa. UN envoy Bintou Keita told the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) that the conflict between M23 and the DRC could “reverse hard-won progress in security and stability” in the region. So far, several East African countries have agreed earlier this month to deploy a regional force in eastern DRC to help end violence.
- President Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone was the first person to use the new notes at a central bank in Freetown last Friday (July 1). According to its central bank, Sierra Leone has planned to launch a re-denominated currency without their value changing. Financial transactions with the West African country have been suspended since last Wednesday (June 29) in preparation for the re-calibration of the nation’s currency.