News diary 1-7 February: Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny has jail hearing and Six Nations starts

Foresight News rounds up the key events that need to be in your news diary this week…

Monday

A timely session for the Public Accounts Committee sees Border Force head Paul Lincoln and Home Office permanent secretary Matthew Rycroft answering questions on the programme to upgrade digital services at the UK border. The session follows the NAO’s December report on the subject, but committee members may take the opportunity to question the officials on Priti Patel’s new quarantine measures and recent disruption to the arrival of goods into the UK.

The UK assumes the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council for the month, with Ambassador Barbara Woodward expected to brief media on the UK’s priorities and key meetings. Typically, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab would be expected to chair at least one meeting during the presidency. The UK’s leadership of the COP26 and G7, as well as security challenges such as Iran, are likely to figure prominently as part of efforts to demonstrate the UK’s continued global engagement in the post-Brexit era.

Tuesday

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and her cabinet are due to review Scotland’s coronavirus lockdown regulations as the Scottish mainland enters its fifth week of the stay-at-home order. The government has already confirmed lockdown will remain in place until mid-February, and while significant changes are unlikely, Sturgeon could make good on her warning of stricter quarantine measures for international travellers.

Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny (pictured) is back in court in Moscow, where authorities are seeking to replace his suspended prison sentence on disputed embezzlement charges with a custodial sentence. Navalny has garnered national and international attention since returning to Russia following his recovery from novichok nerve agent poisoning.

Wednesday

Patricia Espinosa, the head of the UN’s climate change body, addresses the London School of Economics after spending last week banging the drum for #ClimateAction at the virtual Davos dialogues. Espinosa joined COP26 President Alok Sharma to launch a new paper on how major sectors of the global economy can help move towards net zero emissions, and the UNFCCC executive secretary looks set to become a much more familiar figure in the UK ahead of the November climate summit.

This year’s delayed awards season kicks off with the Golden Globes nominee announcement ahead of the primetime ceremony next month. Favourites to win Best Picture include The Trial of the Chicago 7, Nomadland, and Mank. In television, The Crown, The Queen’s Gambit, and Ozark are among a number of Netflix originals expected to be recognised. Actress and activist Jane Fonda will be honoured with the Cecil B. deMille award for her contributions to entertainment.

Fresh from her GMB walkout, Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey faces her latest committee session on the department’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. The Work and Pensions Committee has been critical of the DWP’s handling of issues such as legacy and disability benefits, and the session is likely to be closely watched for any further clarity on the extension of the Universal Credit uplift.

Thursday

UCAS publishes its End of Cycle report, detailing prospective university students’ acceptances, offers and entry rates. The Office for Students recently warned that poor white teenagers from areas in England that have experienced economic decline, such as coastal and former industrial towns, are being “left behind” when it comes to going to university.

Three teenagers are expected to appear at Reading Crown Court charged with the murder of Olly Stephens. The teens, who cannot be named for legal reasons, are accused of stabbing the 13-year-old to death in Reading on 3 January. A trial is due to begin on 21 June.

The US National Prayer Breakfast takes place virtually for the first time in its nearly 70-year history. Newly inaugurated President Joe Biden, who has been open about the importance of his Catholic faith, is expected to deliver remarks. In contrast to Donald Trump’s speech last year touting his recent impeachment acquittal, Biden is likely to use the opportunity to address the grief and suffering of the American people as the country approaches 450,000 lives lost from the coronavirus in the past year.

Friday

The EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, is scheduled to meet his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow for wide-ranging talks, despite pressure to cancel the trip over Russia’s treatment of Alexei Navalny. Borrell’s visit comes ahead of a planned discussion among EU leaders next month on Europe’s relationship with Russia, which has been particularly frosty since the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

As it happens, there is a hearing today in yet another case against Navalny, who stands accused of defaming a WWII veteran who featured in a political advert supporting last year’s constitutional referendum, which paved the way for Vladimir Putin to seek further terms as president.

Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey speaks at the LSE German Symposium, an annual event to discuss issues relating to Germany, the UK and the rest of the world. Bailey recently quashed rumours that the Bank of England would cut UK interest rates to below zero, but his speech is likely to focus on how the UK economy will fare against the twin challenges of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic.

Saturday

The 2021 Six Nations kicks off on Saturday. The highlight of the day’s matches sees defending champions England take on Scotland in the Calcutta Cup. This year’s tournament is one of added importance for the home nations with places on the British and Irish Lions tour to South Africa up for grabs. Round one concludes in Cardiff on Sunday as Wales host Ireland.

A year has passed since the first person in the US died after contracting Covid-19. The 57-year-old woman from Santa Clara, California died on February 6, 2020, although her death was not confirmed as COVID-related until more than two months later. In the year since, there have been nearly 450,000 deaths in the US linked to the disease, more than any other country, although President Biden hopes that his target of vaccinating 300 million Americans by the end of summer will turn the devastating tide of the pandemic in the US.

Sunday

A state of emergency imposed in Tokyo and three neighbouring Japanese prefectures on 7 January is due to expire, though the measures, expanded to a further seven regions on 13 January, could remain in place until the end of the month with case numbers remaining high. Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga told a parliamentary panel last week that he would decide on an extension “several days” before the expiration.

Legendary quarterback Tom Brady takes on rising star Patrick Mahomes in Super Bowl LV as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face reigning champions Kansas City Chiefs. If 43-year-old Brady can successfully lead the Buccaneers to victory, he will become the first player in the game’s history to win seven championship titles. The Weeknd is on half-time entertainment duties, while 22-year-old inaugural poet Amanda Gorman will perform before the game.

The news diary is provided in association with Foresight News.

Picture: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov

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