A look ahead at the key events leading the news agenda next week, from the team at Foresight News. Delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Leading the week
Next Friday (February 24) marks exactly one year since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the launch of Russia’s so-called ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine, and the anniversary is set to dominate the news next week. US President Joe Biden begins a three-day trip to Poland on Monday (February 20) during which he’s set to deliver a major speech on the conflict, as well as meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda and participate in a broader summit with Bucharest Nine leaders. There are also rumours that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy could travel to Poland at some point during Biden’s visit. Monday will also see Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba head to Brussels to join EU foreign ministers who will hear new proposals from High Representative Josep Borrell on purchasing desperately-needed ammunition for Kyiv, possibly via the European Peace Facility.
On Tuesday (February 21), Putin delivers his highly-anticipated address to Russian lawmakers in Moscow, coinciding with the anniversary of his decision to recognise the independence of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, the rebel-controlled parts of Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Russian lawmakers gather again on Wednesday (February 22) for an extraordinary session, while in New York the UN Security Council meets at Russia’s request to discuss the Nord Stream pipelines after US journalist Seymour Hersh published an article claiming Washington was responsible for the explosion which damaged the pipelines in September. The General Assembly also meets on Wednesday to begin a two-day debate on the conflict as part of the Emergency Special Session established in response to Russia’s invasion.
On Thursday (February 23), Russia marks Defender of the Fatherland Day, which typically sees Putin lay a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Although the figure is disputed by Moscow, it’s thought that well over 100,000 Russian troops may been killed so far in the conflict, with the high numbers at least partly attributable to Russia’s decision to send poorly-trained convicts to the battlefield as cannon fodder. On Friday, the anniversary of the invasion, the conflict is set to be discussed at the UN again, this time at what could be a dramatic ministerial-level session of the Security Council. Meanwhile, the OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly is due to hold a debate on the conflict in Vienna as part of its winter session amid a row over Austria’s insistence that it is obligated to extend invitations to Russian officials. And while the week’s activities focus on the one-year mark, Ukraine’s Day of Resistance to Occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol on Sunday (February 26) serves as a reminder that the current conflict actually dates back to at least 2014.
Nicola Sturgeon fields the latest round of First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday (February 23), just days after her seismic resignation announcement kickstarted a new era for Scottish politics. Addressing an impromptu press conference in Bute House on Wednesday, Sturgeon said she knew ‘in my head and in my heart’ that it was the right time to stand down from the role, insisting her resignation was not prompted by recent controversies over gender reforms or the incarceration of trans prisoners. The race to succeed Sturgeon is sure to attract a crowded field of candidates, with Finance Secretary Kate Forbes and Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and the party’s former Westminster leader Angus Robertson likely to be among the frontrunners. A special independence conference planned for next month has been postponed, with nominations due by Friday (February 24) and the new leader announced after a members’ ballot closes on March 27.
The ramifications of Sturgeon’s departure will be debated in Westminster far beyond next week, but there’s plenty to contend with in SW1 over the coming days. Parliament returns on Monday (February 20) with Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove likely to face questions on his attendance at a secret Brexit summit during recess, before a general debate on Ukraine offers an opportunity for backbench orators to have their say on the anniversary of the conflict. The anti-strikes bill is considered in the House of Lords for the first time on Tuesday (February 21), while on Wednesday (February 22) new legislation on elections in Northern Ireland is read in the Commons after Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer face off at a PMQs which is likely to be dominated by questions about the Brexit deal being touted in Belfast and Brussels by the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet figures this weekend.
Two major #MeToo stories are back in the headlines on Thursday (February 23) as disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein and singer R. Kelly are both due to be sentenced. Weinstein was found guilty in Los Angeles in December of three counts of rape and sexual assault; he is already serving a 23-year-sentence following his 2020 conviction in New York, and faces a further 18 years in prison. At the sentencing hearing, the judge is also due to consider a motion filed by defence lawyers seeking a new trial. R. Kelly is sentenced in Chicago after being convicted of child pornography and exploitation charges last September over his sexual abuse of his teenage goddaughter, who testified at the trial under the pseudonym Jane. Kelly is already serving a 30-year sentence after being convicted in New York on racketeering and sex trafficking charges.