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A disaster is unfolding in southern Ukraine after a major dam in Russian-occupied Kherson collapsed Tuesday morning. In this week’s Factal Forecast podcast, Senior Editor Jimmy Lovaas and Editor Alex Moore discuss the catastrophe upending thousands of lives along with its immediate effect on the war and large-scale consequences for years to come.
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Week of June 9-16
A Look Ahead
June 10 – Champions League final in Istanbul
English side Manchester City will play Italy’s Inter Milan at Atatürk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul on Saturday in the UEFA Champions League final, capping the world’s most-watched club competition.
What’s happened so far
To reach the final, Manchester City knocked off defending champions Real Madrid 5-1 on aggregate, while Inter Milan defeated cross-town rival AC Milan 3-0 to advance. Neither match saw much in the way of unrest, however, brawls have arisen at other recent soccer matches in Europe, including this week’s Conference League final in Prague where several people were injured and more than a dozen arrested.
Concerns that the recent Turkish election could spur unrest in the leadup to the match have thus far proven unfounded. However, previous finals have been marred by safety issues and security concerns, with an independent investigation saying it was only “a matter of chance” that no one died in crowd crushes last year outside Stade de France in Paris. While Atatürk Olympic Stadium has a capacity of more than 76,000 people, fewer than 20,000 tickets were allocated to each team, forcing many fans in each city to watch the game from home or at team-hosted events.
June 11 – Montenegro holds early parliamentary elections
Montenegrins will vote for a new parliament Sunday after former President Milo Djukanovic announced early elections in March. All 81 seats are up for grabs for a four-year term.
What’s happened so far
The Montenegrin parliament faced several votes of no confidence after Djukanovic’s party lost its decades-long hold on power and entered the opposition in 2020. The most recent no-confidence vote was in August 2022 over Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic’s deal with the Serbian Orthodox church, one that was criticized for promoting pro-Russia Belgrade’s interests. Abazovic remains in a caretaker position until a new government is formed. The elections will be held under new President Jakov Milatov of the Europe Now! Party, a centrist with ties to Serbia.
Sunday’s polls could determine whether Montenegro can put an end to the political turmoil that followed Djukanovic’s 2020 parliamentary defeat. With polls predicting that Europe Now! will form the new government, the influence of Russia on the Balkan country and its leadership is under the spotlight — Montenegro is integral to NATO securing the Adriatic Sea. Europe Now! is also under scrutiny after party leader Milojko Spajic was accused of taking campaign funding from Do Kwon, the founder of collapsed cryptocurrency Terra, at clandestine meetings in Serbia.
June 12 – U.S. opens migrant processing centers in Guatemala
Following the end to a pandemic-era rule that let the United States rapidly expel most asylum seekers crossing over the southern border, the country will try a new tactic with Guatemala beginning Monday.
What’s happened so far
Since President Joe Biden’s election, the United States has seen an influx of migrants hoping for looser restrictions at the border. Many, however, were expelled using the public health law known as Title 42. The Biden administration ended Title 42 last month while also introducing a controversial new rule that makes most people ineligible to seek U.S. asylum if they did not apply for protection in countries they passed through to reach the border. Now, as part of a joint agreement with Guatemala, the United States is launching a six-month trial program aimed at managing “irregular migration.”
The new program will open offices in Guatemala to help people get temporary work permits, reunite with family or access other legal avenues to enter the United States. The United Nations will help staff the centers. The hope is that this will cut down on illegal immigration attempts, which is seen as a political liability for Biden ahead of his 2024 reelection campaign.
June 12 – UBS to finalize takeover of Credit Suisse
Switzerland’s largest bank, UBS, expects to acquire its failing rival Credit Suisse as early as Monday.
What’s happened so far
Following financial panic sparked by Silicon Valley Bank’s failure in March 2023, investors withdrew billions from the beleaguered Credit Suisse, the second-largest Swiss bank. Switzerland’s state apparatus orchestrated an emergency takeover by UBS to prevent further fallout. This acquisition, the largest since the 2008 financial crisis, required a commitment from the Swiss government to absorb up to 9 billion francs ($10 billion) of Credit Suisse’s losses. Having already been accepted by the European Union’s competition authorities, the deal awaits a seal of approval from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
At $1.6 trillion, UBS’ new balance sheet will be twice as large as the Swiss economy, making the acquisition controversial domestically. Switzerland’s Social Democratic Party recently proposed capping the size of the new bank’s assets to reduce risk in the event of a financial crisis. UBS’ Chief Executive Sergio Ermotti argued that the bank still “won’t be at the top of the classification for international banks in terms of size.” Ermotti separately warned of “painful” job cuts as the banks merge workforces.
June 12 – Sweden and Turkey meet on NATO membership
Officials from Sweden and Turkey are set to meet as early as Monday to discuss Sweden’s NATO membership bid, according to Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
What’s happened so far
Finland was the latest country to join the military alliance on April 4. Although Sweden initially applied at the same time as its Nordic neighbor, the process has been halted primarily by Turkey, which objected to Stockholm joining the alliance, alleging it harbored members of militant groups outlawed by Ankara. Last week, new anti-terrorism legislation came into effect in Sweden, which makes it illegal to arrange meetings, provide logistical help and facilitate financial transactions to outlawed groups.
Both NATO’s secretary-general and Sweden’s Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson hope the new piece of legislation will convince Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to give the green light to Stockholm’s NATO ascension before July’s summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Analysts believe Erdogan is likely to make a decision now that he has been sworn in for another five-year presidential term. Sweden has faced criticism on the new anti-terrorism legislation, however, with Kurdish activists protesting in Stockholm last Sunday, arguing it infringes on the right to exercise freedom of expression in the country.
June 13 – Deadline to submit candidacies to Ecuador elections
Ecuador’s electoral council extended the deadline to Monday for candidates to submit their names for the presidential election that will be held in August.
What’s happened so far
The deadline was extended from June 10 to June 13 by the National Electoral Commission after President Guillermo Lasso dissolved parliament on May 17, triggering early elections. Lasso dissolved the chamber and cut his term short after parliament approved an impeachment trial against the president over embezzlement charges. The move has been interpreted as a political action to try to benefit his party in the upcoming vote amid his loss of popularity. Lasso announced on June 2 that he will not be seeking reelection.
The new deadline will allow parties to have more time to hold primaries and to meet the gender parity criteria, which dictates that the president and vice president pairs aspiring to office must include both a male and female candidate. The same resolution establishes that parties’ candidate lists for the legislative elections, which will be held on the same day as the presidential elections, must be equally split between men and women.
What Else Matters
Kakhovka Dam breach
Ukraine’s Kakhovka Dam in the Russian-occupied Kherson Oblast breached early Tuesday, triggering widespread flooding and a humanitarian, ecological and economic disaster. The cause of the destruction of the massive dam, which Russia has held since the first hours of last February’s invasion, remains murky. Ukraine pinned the blame on Russia, alleging Moscow’s forces placed explosive charges within the dam and detonated the structure. Russia’s response was notably chaotic and muddled, with one local occupation official initially saying there was no explosion or damage to the dam and another blaming the breach on previous damage. The Kremlin, meanwhile, alleged “deliberate sabotage” by Ukraine, with multiple state media outlets blaming Ukrainian rocket strikes. Subsequent flooding triggered widespread evacuations on the Ukraine-controlled right bank of Kherson with dozens of thousands of residents impacted. Evacuations appear more chaotic on the Russia-controlled left bank, including the heaviest hit areas of Oleshky and Hola Prystan, with widespread allegations that Russia is either not helping or outright hindering efforts.
Watch for: Beyond the immediate humanitarian concerns, record high water levels in the dam reservoir prior to the breach threaten long-term impacts. The IAEA is monitoring nuclear safety at the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant that utilizes the reservoir for cooling water, saying the reservoir could drain below plant pumping levels as early as Friday. The disaster could also wreak havoc on Ukrainian agriculture, threatening a crucial global supplier of grain. Russian-occupied Crimea, meanwhile, depends on a canal running through the dam for fresh water and now risks a similar water crisis to the one it faced between 2014 and 2022. The breach coincides with the early stages of a Ukrainian counteroffensive with multiple attacks launched against Russian defensive lines in the southern theater since Sunday. The dam breach essentially negates any possibility of Ukraine attempting an amphibious landing on Kherson’s left bank and could allow Russia to cycle forces from the Kherson area to defend against assaults further east in Zaporizhia and Donetsk.
Unrest spread across Senegal last week after opposition leader Ousmane Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison on a charge of corrupting youth. Sonko did not appear at the June 1 hearing and has not yet been taken into custody, but Senegal’s Justice Ministry warned he could be arrested at any time if he leaves his home. At least 16 people were killed and 500 others arrested in the three days of demonstrations across multiple cities including the capital Dakar, according to Senegalese state media.
Watch for: The government reportedly continues to impose nightly mobile internet shutdowns in a bid to limit information about upcoming demonstrations, according to the internet monitor NetBlocks. Sonko’s political party, PASTEF Les Patriotes, condemned the violence and called on the public to continue mobilizing until President Macky Sall resigns. Sonko can contest the sentence if he agrees to turn himself in within 15 days; if he does not, he will likely not be able to challenge Sall in next year’s presidential election. Some observers now expect Senegal’s religious leaders, who have traditionally played a mediatory role, to step in to prevent further violence amid the highly polarized political environment.
What’s on our radar in the coming weeks…
- 2023 UEFA Champions League final in Istanbul
- Montenegro parliamentary elections
- UBS expects to complete its takeover of Credit Suisse
- Sweden and Turkey will meet again on former’s NATO membership
- U.S. processing centers in Guatemala will accept migrant appointments
- Pope Francis envoy visits Goma, DR Congo
- Deadline to submit candidacies to Ecuador’s presidential elections
- Lebanon presidential vote
- U.S. Open for golf begins
- Special Olympics World Summer Games begin
- Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin visits Portugal
- Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny public trial at IK-6 penal colony
- Dutch King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima visit Belgium
- German Chancellor Scholz invites Chinese Premier Li Qiang for talks
- Jagannath Rath Yatra Hindu Festival
- U.S. President Joe Biden hosts Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for state visit
- Sierra Leone elections
- U.S.-Israel Negev Forum in Morocco
- Guatemala elections
- Greece elections
- EU’s Digital Services Act comes into force
- Toronto mayoral election
- Argentina’s President Alberto Fernandez visits Brazil
- Devshayani Ekadashi Hindu holiday
- Closure of Russian embassy office in Lappeenranta, Finland
- Kenya and Somalia reopen three points on land border
- Municipal elections in Peru
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