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Forecast: Sri Lanka suspends fuel sales, Brittney Griner’s trial begins in Russia, and record travel expected for July 4

Britney Griner, right, prepares for a potential rebound. Her opponent is a Minnesota Lynx player. Griner is in Phoenix Mercury orange. The Lynx player wears blue.

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.

As Sri Lanka deals with its worst economic crisis in 70 years, a fuel shortage threatens to send the country deeper into despair. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Jeff Landset discuss the impact of limited fuel supplies and how the spiraling situation could lead to more unrest.

Listen now or download on your favorite platform. 

Week of July 1-8
A Look Ahead

July 1

Brittney Griner’s criminal trial begins 

American basketball superstar Brittney Griner’s criminal trial will begin Friday in Moscow, where she’s been detained for more than four months.

What’s happened so far 
Griner, one of the world’s most famous women’s basketball players and a Team USA gold medalist, was detained by Russian authorities in mid-February under suspicion of narcotics smuggling. The arrest, which came against the backdrop of soaring tensions between Russia and the West amid the former’s massive troop buildup that precipitated the full invasion of Ukraine, prompted searing criticism from NBA and WNBA stars alike.

The impact 
The U.S. State Department has classified Griner as wrongfully detained, meaning the department’s hostage affairs team is responsible for negotiating her release. If convicted, Griner faces up to a decade in Russian prison, and she is likely to remain behind bars for the duration of her trial, proceedings which can be painstakingly long in Russia. While it has been reported that the United States is mulling swapping notorious arms trafficker Viktor Bout for Griner, this trade is complicated by multiple factors, such as Russian willingness and the status of American Paul Whelan, sentenced to 16 years in Russia for espionage in 2020.

July 1 

Xi Jinping to visit Hong Kong for 25th handover anniversary

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is set to attend the swearing-in ceremony of Hong Kong’s new chief executive Friday, on the 25th anniversary of the city’s handover to Chinese rule.

What’s happened so far 
Xi’s visit to Hong Kong will be his first in half a decade and his first trip outside of mainland China since the coronavirus pandemic began. Hong Kong has changed drastically in that time, rocked by mass protests in 2019 and followed by harsh crackdowns on civic and political life, especially through a Beijing-imposed national security law. 

The impact 
Security will be tight — police have already sealed off roads and deployed extra forces to areas where Xi is expected to visit and pass by. The handover anniversary is customarily a time for pro-democracy groups to rally in Hong Kong, but this year may well be protest-free under the chill of the sweeping national security law. 

July 1

New round of Turkey-Armenia normalization talks

Special representatives from both Turkey and Armenia will head to Vienna on Friday for the fourth meeting discussing normalization between both countries. 

What’s happened so far 
Since December 2021, Turkish Ambassador Serdar Kiliç and Armenian Deputy Speaker Ruben Rubinyan have met three times, with the intention of normalizing relations between the two countries, which have never had formal diplomatic relations. With no preconditions for the meetings, commercial flights connecting the two countries began in February in an attempt to drive the relationship forward. Turkey’s foreign minister called the last meeting in Antalya, Turkey, “extremely fruitful and constructive.”

The impact 
Turkey and Armenia have a tumultuous historical relationship, and the Azerbaijan conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region — ongoing since 1993 — has not only exacerbated it, but also left landlocked Armenia with a large part of its border closed entirely. This normalization process, attempted twice before, is set to open Armenia’s economy and trade routes to Turkish produce and is expected to tackle the overarching Russian influence over the country if normalization goes ahead. 

July 2

DPR to announce date of Moscow embassy opening

On Saturday, the Russia-backed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) breakaway state of eastern Ukraine will announce the date it will open its Moscow embassy.

What’s happened so far 
After a month of speculation, Russia became the first country to grant the DPR diplomatic recognition just days before February’s full invasion of Ukraine. While Russia has recognized official DPR documents such as passports for more than five years now, the February recognition and overt invasion that followed have taken cooperation between the DPR and Russia to another level.

The impact 
The deepening cooperation has prompted DPR’s leader to announce the region would consider being fully annexed by Russia once Moscow and affiliated forces establish control over the Donetsk regional borders. The announcement comes as Russia’s grinding and bloody offensive in Ukraine’s Donbas persists with Russia consolidating control over nearly all of the Luhansk region after the fall of Severodonetsk. The fall of Lysychansk, the final Luhansk city contested by Ukraine, would enable Russian forces to focus efforts on attacking the remaining Ukrainian strongholds in Donetsk, such as Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, from multiple sides. 

July 2

Former Pakistani PM Khan holds Islamabad rally

Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan will hold a rally on Saturday at the parade ground in the capital Islamabad.

What’s happened so far
Khan has called for nationwide demonstrations on the same day of the Islamabad rally in protest of the current administration which his party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), considers an “imported government imposed […] through a U.S. regime change conspiracy.” This comes after Khan lost a no-confidence vote in April, triggering several rallies in Islamabad and across Pakistan that have led to thousands of people arrested and two deaths.

The impact 
This latest rally is a continuation of PTI-staged anti-government demonstrations in protest over high inflation and rising prices in Pakistan. The former prime minister has already been accused of inciting violence. With Khan expected to lead this protest and further vocalize his allegations of pre-poll rigging, the security situation across the capital is likely to remain tense.

July 2

OSCE parliamentary assembly annual meeting

The United Kingdom will host the first in-person annual meeting of the Organization for the Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly since the start of the coronavirus pandemic starting Saturday.

What’s happened so far 
The largest regional security organization will hold its annual session during five days at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham. This is the first time the U.K. will host the meeting in almost two decades. OSCE’s Parliamentary Assembly will bring together 323 delegates from 56 parliaments and a guest of honor from the Holy See. 

The impact 
While recent NATO and G7 meetings held in Europe also touched on the war in Ukraine, the OSCE, which prevents and monitors conflicts in Europe, is expected to focus primarily on Ukraine and the security of other European countries, mainly those neighboring Ukraine. Meanwhile, members of the Russian delegation have been denied British visas to attend the event due to sanctions, with the British Home Office saying it was prioritizing visa applications from Ukrainians. 

July 4

U.S. Independence Day

Nearly 48 million people are expected to travel over the July 4th weekend for the Monday holiday, according to AAA, a total nearly on par with pre-pandemic levels. Of that figure, almost 90 percent are forecast to hit the road in spite of record-high gas prices.

What’s happened so far 
So-called “revenge travel” in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic has fueled a surge in trips, with the Transportation Security Administration logging its highest screening figures for air passengers last week since February 2020. The uptick in demand has also come with an increase in flight cancellations and other operational woes. 

The impact 
The possible hurdles have done little to dampen travel plans in the leadup to the long weekend. Thursday and Friday afternoon are expected to be the busiest days for drivers, with Friday the top day for air travel.

July 6

French unions call national rail strike

Three of France’s largest rail unions have called a one-day strike on Wednesday, the day before French schools are due to break for summer vacation. 

What’s happened so far 
In a joint statement, the CGT, CFDT and Sud Rail unions said the strike action was to demand an increase in pay to allow workers to cope with rising inflation. All lines run by the state rail operator SNCF will be affected by the strike action. A limited timetable is set to be published Tuesday evening.

The impact 
roundtable discussion between union leaders and SNCF management is scheduled for the day of the strike. Additional industrial action is possible if a compromise on wage increases cannot be reached, further complicating travel in France over the busy summer vacation period, as airport staff and cabin crew are also expected to strike. 

What Else Matters

Protesters gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court building. Between them and the building are two sets of fencing and at least one guard with a reflective vest on. The protesters are mostly facing to the right as if walking that direction or focused on a speaker.
Protesters gather outside the U.S. Supreme Court building July 24 in Washington, D.C., after the court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. (Photo: Ted Eytan / Flickr)

U.S. abortion rights

Pro- and anti-abortion groups are waging legal battles in multiple U.S. states after the conservative-majority Supreme Court ended almost five decades of federal protection giving women the right to choose. Abortion is now illegal in seven states, and is expected to face the same fate in at least nine more.

Watch for: Women’s and civil rights groups, as well as Democratic policy makers, are challenging abortion restrictions triggered by the Supreme Court’s decision in swing states including Wisconsin and Ohio. Meanwhile, voters in states such as Kansas and Kentucky will decide in the coming months whether to change their constitutions to solidify the ban on the procedure, as others in Tennessee, Alabama and West Virginia have already done. Democrats are already using the Supreme Court’s decision to mobilize turnout for the midterm elections in November, with President Joe Biden saying, “this fall, Roe is on the ballot.” Protests continue to spread across the country, with dozens arrested since Friday’s ruling.

Sri Lanka fuel crisis 

In the middle of the country’s worst-ever economic crisis, Sri Lanka is taking extreme measures to mitigate a severe fuel shortage. Colombo ordered the closure of schools and urged people to work from home for two weeks starting this last Monday. Authorities also said only vehicles used for medical services and transporting food will be allowed to fill their gas tanks

Watch for: A Reuters calculation found that Sri Lanka’s fuel supply will be exhausted in days, based on regular demand. If that happens, its 22 million residents will likely become desperate enough to spur larger and more deadly protests than the country saw in May, when at least nine people were killed in unrest. It could also lead to a change in the government, as the opposition leader has called for resignations.

Drought in Mexico

Mexico has faced a drought crisis since the start of the year due to a lack of rain nationwide. According to the government’s water monitoring agency, drought was detected in 81 percent of the country’s territory by May, and at least four states — Baja California, Sonora, Chihuahua and Coahuila — are experiencing severe conditions as of June. In the case of Nuevo León, the drought affecting 93 percent of the state’s territory remains moderate, with the exception of Monterrey, where more than five million people are under water rationing measures amid a climate emergency that has been building since 2015. With dams virtually dry, extreme heat and no rains, Monterrey lacks bottled drinking water and access to water for domestic use. The drought has been aggravated by the overexploitation of resources in the city, which is the industrial capital of the country, and poor planning from the local administration. 

Watch for: 
More than 15 states are showing some degree of drought, according to water monitoring body Conagua. The agency has deployed brigades across the country as experts warn that the crisis will extend as long as it doesn’t rain. Some local governments are implementing measures to redistribute water resources, often monopolized by companies, and building new wells to try to access new sources of water. Mexican states under exceptional drought conditions could be forced to adopt water use restrictions following Monterrey’s example if the dry season continues.

Extended Outlook

What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…

June 30-July 8

June 30

  • Parliamentary elections in Libya
  • Philippines President-elect Ferdinand Marcos takes office
  • Russia-Belarus forum
  • Russian and Indonesian presidents meet in Moscow

July 1

  • Japan asks households, companies to save energy
  • Czech Republic takes over the EU presidency
  • China’s senior leaders meet in Beidaihe
  • New round of Turkey-Armenia normalization talks
  • China’s Xi to visit Hong Kong 

July 2

  • OSCE meeting begins in Birmingham, England
  • Imran Khan holds Islamabad rally
  • DPR announces date of Moscow embassy opening

July 4

  • U.S Independence Day
  • NASA launches rockets from Australia’s north

July 5

  • Human Rights Council debate on Ukraine

July 6

  • French unions call for national rail strikes

July 7

  • G20 foreign ministers meet in Indonesia’s Bali

July 9-15

July 10

  • Japan holds upper house election
  • Congolese National Assembly election
  • UN Security Council meeting on Syria aid route

July 12

  • EU Economic and Financial Affairs Council
  • Mexican president meets with President Biden in Washington

July 13

  • President Biden visits Israel, West Bank and Saudi Arabia

July 14

  • Bastille Day in France
  • EU affairs ministers informal meeting in Prague

July 16-22

July 17

  • South Ossetia referendum

July 18

  • EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting
  • Israel’s Labor party holds primary

July 19

  • MLB All-Star Game

July 21

  • San Diego Comic-Con begins

July 23-29

July 23

  • 11th ASEAN Para Games in Indonesia

July 24

  • Pope Francis visits Canada

July 25

  • Tunisia constitution referendum

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