Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.
The United States and Russia faced off Monday at the U.N. Security Council over Washington’s accusations that Moscow is planning a large-scale invasion of neighboring Ukraine, which the Kremlin has denied.
At UN, US Demands Russia Explain Its Troop Buildup on Ukraine Border
Somber Myanmar anniversary
Tuesday marked one year since the military seized the government in Myanmar. The army is clinging to power, democratically elected leaders face lengthy prison sentences and people continue to resist the coup.
People Resist Myanmar Military Coup One Year On
Attempted coup in Guinea-Bissau
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern at the “multiplication of coups” after one appeared to be under way in the West African nation of Guinea-Bissau on Tuesday. “It is, for us, clear that coups are totally unacceptable,” he said, noting coups have been on the rise lately. Tuesday’s coup was unsuccessful.
Guinea-Bissau President Withstands Coup Attempt
— Guterres on Tuesday appealed for the parties in Ethiopia to halt fighting in observance of the tradition and spirit of the Olympic truce. He said the truce, which is in effect now as the Beijing Winter Games get under way, could save lives and help the parties overcome differences and find a path to real peace.
— On January 29, a military tribunal in the Democratic Republic of the Congo sentenced 51 people to death — most of them militia members (and several in absentia) — for the 2017 slayings of U.N. experts Zaida Catalan and Michael Sharp. The two were investigating mass graves in the central Kasai region when they were abducted and killed along with their four Congolese companions. The DRC has a moratorium on the death penalty, which the U.N. urged the authorities to maintain.
— The U.N. said on January 29 that it might be forced to end its humanitarian operation in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region by the end of February because supplies are running out. Stocks of food, medical supplies, fuel and cash have been perilously low for months because of a de facto government blockade on the region, which is fighting with the federal government.
— Funding shortages in Yemen, where nearly 21 million people need assistance, have led almost two-thirds of major U.N. aid programs to reduce assistance or close. Without more money, the U.N. says, further cuts are expected in the coming months.
Some good news
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday that it had flown its 10th cargo plane in 10 days into the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia. The flights carry vital medical supplies provided by the ICRC and the Ministry of Health and will cover the immediate needs of thousands of people. Very little food, medicine, fuel and other humanitarian items have gotten into the region in months because of a de facto government blockade. The ICRC said it hopes the flights will become regular and has five more planned for next week.
Quote of note
“We have to remain vigilant. We never underestimated the Russian threat. Ukraine understands that every scenario is possible. But what we are seeing now is the implementation of destabilization scenario. And there is still room for diplomacy. I hope we will succeed diplomatically. If not, and Russia decides to attack, we will fight.”
— Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, in a call with reporters Wednesday.
Tropical Cyclone Batsirai is expected to make landfall in Madagascar on Saturday. The “very dangerous” storm comes just two weeks after Tropical Storm Ana struck the Indian Ocean nation. Preemptive evacuations have begun and aid agencies have pre-positioned supplies. The storms are bearing down on the country, where more than 1 million people in the south face severe food insecurity because of climate change and swarms of desert locusts.
Aid Agencies Brace for Cyclone in Madagascar