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Forecast: War in Ukraine rages on, Flag March planned in Jerusalem, and California warns of water restrictions amid drought

Hundreds of people march in the 2018 Flag Day parade in Jerusalem.

Welcome to Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories from the editors at Factal. We publish our forward-looking note each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. If this email was forwarded to you, and you like what you see, you can subscribe for free.

While fighting in western Ukraine has lessened in recent weeks, the war is by no means over. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Alex Moore discuss the intense fighting underway in the country’s east and how the future of the Donbas region hangs in the balance.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of May 27-June 3
A Look Ahead

May 28

Syrian Constitutional Committee session

The U.N.-led Syrian Constitutional Committee will host an eighth round of talks in Geneva starting Saturday.

What’s happened so far 

More than 11 years since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, the U.N. estimates there to be approximately 6.8 million refugees and 6.9 million internally displaced persons. The latest round of the Syria Constitutional Committee was held in March in Geneva, during which opposing parties discussed humanitarian needs, basic governance and proposals to amend the constitution. Since then, President Bashar Al-Assad has issued a decree pledging to release prisoners arrested on terrorism charges that did not lead to deaths. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights estimates some 1,100 political prisoners have since been released, with hundreds more expected in the coming days.

The impact 

The main goal of the Syrian Constitutional Committee is to set the groundwork for a new constitution, which analysts believe will unlikely be agreed upon by the 15 members of civil society, 15 members of government and 15 members of the opposition expected to participate in the upcoming session. In talks with Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad in Damascus, the U.N. special envoy for Syria said he is more “hopeful” about positive advancement in the upcoming talks in light of the recent decree.

May 29 

Jerusalem Day “Flag March”

Officials are warning about potential violence on Sunday after police approved an Israeli nationalist parade through mostly Palestinian areas of Jerusalem.

What’s happened so far 

Jerusalem Day is an Israeli national holiday marking the reunification of East Jerusalem and West Jerusalem under the rule of Israel in 1967. The parade has increasingly been a flashpoint between right-wing Israeli nationalists and Jerusalem’s Muslim population. Last year, Hamas fired rockets at Jerusalem during the march, sparking the 11-day war that led to hundreds of deaths and thousands of injuries.

The impact

Left-wing lawmakers attacked the decision saying it could cause another escalation with Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups. Hamas has threatened violence if the march route goes as planned. Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has remained defiant about the parade, calling it the “usual route.”

May 29

Colombia presidential election

On Sunday, Colombians will vote in the first-round of the country’s presidential election, where new candidates on the ballot seek a drastic change for the next four years.

What’s happened so far 

Polls indicate that Gustavo Petro, a former left-wing guerilla fighter and current senator, leads with nearly 40 percent of the vote in his second attempt at the presidency, followed by Federico Gutiérrez, the right-wing Equipo por Colombia leader, and Rodolfo Hernandez, a populist anti-corruption former mayor. After mass protests, large upticks of police violence and armed strikes by guerillas and cartels, and widening inequality, Colombians are set to vote in the most left-leaning president in the country’s history ahead of the decisive second-round June 19 vote. 

The impact 

Elections in Colombia are expected go hand in hand with increased violence, assassinations, cartel and guerilla attacks on civilians and journalists, along with a stronger military presence and police violence. Petro is unlikely to win the majority vote that cancels the second round, but his party’s questions on the tenets of Colombia’s traditional ideology on the “war on drugs,” increased foreign investment and relationship with the United States will all foment change. As Petro accuses current President Álvaro Uribe’s party of wanting to postpone the elections, Colombia is likely to remain on edge in the months to come.

May 29

International Day of Solidarity with Belarus

Belarusian opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has called for an international day of solidarity with Belarus on Sunday to express support for those subjugated under President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime. 

What’s happened so far 

Sunday’s demonstration is the second to be held since Belarusian presidential hopeful Sergei Tsikhanousky was detained in May 2020, which sparked mass anti-government protests over political repression by Lukashenko. Protesters gathered in several European cities, including the Polish capital Warsaw and Lithuanian capital Vilnius, for the 2021 event. 

The impact 

This year’s event is also designed to express Belarusians’ anger with Lukashenko’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine. Tsikhanouskaya has accused Lukashenko of putting Belarus’ transport and civil infrastructure at Putin’s disposal and allowing Belarusian territory to be used as a staging ground for Russian attacks on Ukraine. Supporters are encouraged to show their solidarity with Belarusians by spreading anti-Lukashenko messages online, donating to foundations which support the Belarusian opposition and writing letters to political prisoners.

May 31

National strike planned in Belgium

A trio of Belgian trade unions will stage a “National Day of Action” on Tuesday, with transit expected to bear the brunt of the one-day work stoppage. 

What’s happened so far

Participating unions are calling for increased purchasing power and pensions for their members, along with a solution to staffing shortages that have impacted several sectors. The latest demonstrations come on the heels of protest actions earlier this year by teachers, who raised similar issues regarding salaries and workload. 

The impact 

The strike is expected to cause major disruptions to both bus and rail travel, with operators warning of reduced, if not entirely suspended service for the day. It’s unclear just how much of an impact the strike will have in other areas of the economy. 

June 1

California water restrictions

Drought is prompting officials in Southern California to impose limits on water use for local agencies starting Wednesday, as Gov. Gavin Newsom warns of more sweeping restrictions if the state’s 39 million people don’t voluntarily cut consumption.

What’s happened so far

The most populous U.S. state is coming off one of the driest springs in decades, the season it typically accumulates water reserves to carry it through hot summer months. Despite Newsom urging conservation, Californians have increased water use in March by 19 percent over the previous year, while government agencies are well short of their 15 percent reduction target.

The impact 

Dry conditions are threatening the state with another devastating wildfire season and raising criticism of the Newsom administration that its conservation efforts are disproportionately aimed at residents, instead of water-intensive industries such as agriculture and fracking. Newsom, still shaken by a recall vote last year, is scrambling to find an answer to the crisis without angering voters as he seeks reelection in November.

June 2

Ontario elections

Voters in Ontario will elect members of the Provincial Parliament next Thursday and Premier Doug Ford will learn if his Progressive Conservative party still enjoys enough support to maintain a majority.  

What’s happened so far

A recent poll shows Progressive Conservative (PC) leader Doug Ford holding a strong lead over Steven Del Duca’s Liberal Party and Andrea Horwath’s Ontario New Democratic Party (NDP). Early voting closes Saturday, and, while there’s only a week before voting is complete, some of Ford’s challengers reportedly believe they have a path forward. Party insiders told CBC that they see enough seats available in strategic regions that they can block a PC majority

The impact 

Some analysts argue that there are no major issues breaking through to voters that would challenge the status quo. Still, at least one party sees steadily rising gas prices as a possible issue that could come into play. The NDP is promising to cap and regulate prices

June 2

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee

The United Kingdom will enter a four-day bank holiday beginning Thursday to commemorate Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee.

What’s happened so far

On Feb. 6, the queen became the first British monarch to reach 70 years on the throne, but the celebrations were moved to the first week of June due to the anniversary of her father’s death falling on the same day. The celebrations will result in a four-day weekend and are set to include a Trooping the Colour birthday parade, a thanksgiving service at St. Paul’s Cathedral and the derby at Epsom Downs.  

The impact 

The jubilee comes amid concerns over the queen’s health and “episodic mobility issues,” leading to her skipping the Trooping the Colour parade. Though she is expected to make an appearance at the other events, including the balcony flypast at Buckingham Palace, it is unclear how many of the jubilee events the 96-year-old will attend. 

What Else Matters

Wearing protective vests dozens of people inspect a building that was recently destroyed in a strike.
Crews investigate a building shelled in Mariupol, Ukraine, in March 2022, in the early days of Russia’s invasion. Russia has completed its capture of the city. (Photo: Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine / Facebook)

Monkeypox outbreak

Monkeypox continues to spread — with cases reported in at least 16 countries outside Africa — as health officials seek to calm those worried it could become another pandemic. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which conducted a risk assessment on the disease, stressed that monkeypox does not spread easily between people, but warned that it could become endemic in Europe if it makes the transition from humans to animals. The World Health Organization says outbreaks in countries outside of Africa can be contained, adding that the risk to the broader population is very low.

Watch for: Cases are expected to rise in the short term due to the lag time in diagnoses and the ECDC recommended that countries swiftly prepare contact tracing plans. The European Union is in talks with member states to provide drugs and vaccines as needed, and the United States is in the process of releasing some of its monkeypox vaccine, which can also be used to treat smallpox, from a strategic stockpile. Vaccines would likely go to high-risk individuals in an initial rollout. The CDC warned the LGBTQ community and doctors ahead of June’s Pride month to be on the lookout for STD-like symptoms, given a significant number of the cases identified in the outbreak have presented in men who identify as gay and bisexual. The U.N., however, stressed that anyone can catch monkeypox, regardless of sexual orientation, and warned against homophobic and racist reporting. The U.K. Health Security Agency advised anyone at high risk should isolate for 21 days.

Battle of the Donbas

Fighting has continued to intensify in eastern Ukraine, with Russian forces making slow but steady progress along a few significant axes nearly two months after announcing they were shifting focus to the Donbas region. After months of brutal urban fighting amid a prolonged siege, Russian forces officially completed the capture of Mariupol, the former capital of Ukraine-controlled Donetsk. The victory is significant for more reasons than just the obvious, as it has enabled Russia to free up resources to join offensives elsewhere.

Watch for: Russian forces are now advancing along multiple fronts in the Donbas and are threatening to surround Ukraine’s Luhansk capital of Severodonetsk. Following the capture of Popasna and Rubizhne, Russia is now poised to sever the city by capturing the main highway leading to it. In Donetsk, Moscow’s units are currently engaged in a large battle over Lyman, the last city standing between Russian forces staged in Izyum and the large cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk. Despite some Ukrainian success in counterattacking Russian forces in Kharkiv Oblast, they have been unable to meaningfully attack Russian supply lines like they did north of Kyiv. With Ukraine sustaining heavy casualties, the next few weeks could prove decisive in the Donbas. 

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

A calendar of planned and expected news events over the next three weeks.

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