Russia’s main opposition leader, Alexei Navalny, was taken from prison to hospital to be treated for what the authorities called an allergic reaction but supporters said may have been poisoning. He was later returned to prison, where he is in custody for organising an illegal protest, according to the Kremlin. More than 1,000 people were arrested at a demonstration in Moscow demanding that independent candidates be allowed to stand in a citywide election. More protests are planned.
Boris Johnson spent a busy first week as Britain’s prime minister. He created a new office to administer lifelong support for veterans of the armed forces; pledged resources for several projects; and promised to open the spending taps for public services. This included a pledge to put 20,000 more police officers on the streets within three years (replacing the officers cut since the Conservatives took power in 2010).
Next for Mr Johnson was a whistle-stop “Union” tour with visits to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Brexit loomed in the background. In Northern Ireland Mr Johnson declared that the border “backstop”, which would keep Britain in an EU customs union, is dead. The government committed an extra £2.1bn ($2.6bn) to plan for a no-deal exit. See article.
He’s got a friend
Donald Trump announced that Dan Coats would step down as the director of national intelligence. Like most of America’s security chiefs, Mr Coats has had a peppery relationship with the president over their differing assessment of the threats facing America. Mr Trump’s choice to replace him is John Ratcliffe, a supportive Republican congressman who was little known until recently, when, at a congressional hearing, he assailed Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian influence. See article.
The latest Democratic debates shed more heat than light on what policies the party will fight the next election on. Joe Biden, the front-runner, was targeted by his colleagues in a bad-tempered clash in which the candidates squabbled over who was the most progressive. See article.
If at first you don’t succeed
Diplomats from Iran and five world powers met to try to salvage a deal, signed in 2015, that eased economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear programme. An Iranian official said his country will continue to reduce its commitments under the deal until the other signatories secure Iran’s interests. America withdrew from the pact last year.
America imposed sanctions on Iran’s foreign minister, Muhammad Javad Zarif, freezing his assets in America. Mr Zarif “implements the reckless agenda of Iran’s supreme leader”, said Steven Mnuchin, America’s treasury secretary.
According to reports, American officials revealed that the son of Osama bin Laden, Hamza, who was being groomed to take over al-Qaeda, had died. America played a role in the operation that killed him, though it was unclear when or where it was carried out.
Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, the estranged wife of the ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, asked England’s High Court for wardship of their two children, as well as a forced-marriage protection order. Princess Haya, thought to be hiding in London, is Sheikh Mohammed’s sixth wife. Two of his daughters have also tried to run away.
A music festival in Lebanon cancelled an appearance by Mashrou’ Leila, a popular rock band whose lead singer is openly gay. The organisers had come under pressure from Christian groups and conservative politicians, setting off a debate about freedom of expression. The move was intended “to prevent bloodshed”, said the organisers.
Jihadists allied to Islamic State claimed to have killed or injured 40 soldiers in two attacks in the north-east of Nigeria. In other raids on funerals and villages 65 civilians were killed. Meanwhile, the government banned a Shia Muslim group that had protested against the arrest of its leader in 2015 and against the security forces killing its members.
Not exactly a haven
Guatemala signed a safe-third-country agreement with America, under which asylum-seekers passing through the Central American country would have to apply for asylum there rather than in the United States. Guatemala’s president, Jimmy Morales, agreed to the arrangement after Donald Trump threatened to impose tariffs if he did not. Courts in both countries are expected to challenge it. See article.
At least 57 people died in a prison riot in the Brazilian state of Pará. Most of the inmates were killed by asphyxiation caused by a fire, but 16 were decapitated.
Peru’s president, Martín Vizcarra, proposed holding a general election a year early, in April 2020. This would be a way of ending his deadlock with congress over measures to fight corruption. But congress has little incentive to approve early elections, since its members cannot run for re-election immediately. The plan would also need to be approved in a referendum. See article.
Authorities in China expressed support for Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive, and called for order to be restored in the territory. Police charged 44 people who were arrested at one of the many ongoing protests with rioting, prompting further protests outside police stations. See article.
The deputy head of the government of Xinjiang, a region in western China, said that more than 90% of the Uighur Muslims detained in camps by the authorities had been sent home. Human-rights groups expressed scepticism. They say more than 1m Uighurs have been interned in an effort to weaken indigenous culture.
North Korea fired several projectiles into the sea in the direction of Japan on two separate occasions. America and South Korea said they were a new type of short-range missile. North Korea suspended tests of long-range missiles early last year, and last month agreed to restart disarmament talks with America.
India’s parliament approved a law banning Muslim men from divorcing their wives simply by saying the word talaq three times. Few Muslim countries permit this, and the Supreme Court had declared it unconstitutional. But the opposition held up the measure for a year, arguing that punishing men who divorced their wives in this way by sending them to prison was too harsh.
The government of India said that the country’s tiger population had risen by a third since 2014, to almost 3,000.
This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics this week”