The unknown type of viral pneumonia was first reported in Wuhan in early January and has since been confirmed by China and the World Health Organisation to be a new strain of the coronavirus, currently labeled as 2019-nCoV or Novel Coronavirus. The virus has also been detected in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Japan, and the United States. Over a dozen people have died and hundreds have been infected so far.
The Wikileaks founder is awaiting extradition hearings scheduled for February 7-8 on the sexual abuse charges made by two Swedish women. Assange denies the allegations and says the case is politically motivated. He and his supporters fear that he may be extradited from Sweden to the United States, where he could face espionage charges.
The situation in Venezuela is reeling from a political crisis amid the opposition's refusal to recognise last year’s re-election of President Nicolás Maduro.
On 23 January, opposition leader and President of the National Assembly Juan Guaido declared himself the interim president of Venezuela. The United States and a number of Latin and Central American countries immediately backed the opposition leader, with Washington urging Maduro to step down. Several EU countries have promised to follow suit if the Venezuelan government does not call a new presidential election by this weekend.
Maduro continues to insist that he is Venezuela's only constitutional leader and accused Guaido of being a US puppet.
Russia, China, and Mexico, among others, have said that they support the elected government, backing Maduro as the country's legitimate president and demanding that other countries respect the principle of non-interference in Venezuela's internal affairs.
US President Donald Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry initiated by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi back following a complaint by an anonymous whistleblower.
The president is accused of abusing his presidential powers by pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Joe Biden, the democratic presidential frontrunner, using $400 million in military aid to Ukraine as leverage.
Trump has denied any wrongdoing and repeatedly called the impeachment probe a "witch hunt".
A Boeing 737-800 plane belonging to Ukraine International Airlines en route from Tehran to Kiev crashed on 8 January near Imam Khomeini International Airport soon after take-off, killing all 176 people on board.
Investigators are conducting a probe into the circumstances that led to the crash of the plane, which was carrying 167 passengers from Iran, Ukraine, Canada, the UK, Germany, and Sweden, as well as nine crew members.
The European Union and the United Kingdom have got "a great new deal" on Brexit, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on 17 October. According to the European Commission's chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, the new Brexit deal is very likely to find support in the EU and be ratified by October 31.
The deal has yet to be approved by the UK parliament and two UK opposition parties, Labour and the Scottish National Party, have already indicated they would not back the agreement at the vote expected on Saturday.
Demonstrations have engulfed India after the parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which will grant Indian nationality to Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and Parsis who have faced persecution in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh and who arrived in India before 2015.
The bill, however, contentiously does not grant citizenship to Muslims arriving from these three neighbouring countries – something which protesters believe violates the Indian Constitution.
The widespread protests have led to Internet services being suspended in several regions to control the spread of rumours and maintain law and order.
The US carried out an airstrike in Iraq's capital Baghdad on 3 January, killing the head of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis along with 10 other people. The airstrike was authorised by US President Donald Trump and was aimed at "deterring future Iranian attack plans".
The Iranian authorities pledged to exact "crushing vengeance" on Washington for killing its top military commander.
The strike came as the situation in Iraq escalated on 31 December when Shia protesters attempted to storm the gates of the US Embassy in Baghdad following airstrikes on an Iran-backed unit of Kataib Hezbollah operating in the country.
On 7 January, Iran attacked US military forces at the Ayn Al-Asad Air Base and a facility in Erbil in Iraq with ballistic missiles in retaliation for the assassination of the commander of the country’s elite Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, in a US drone strike. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said the attacks were carried out in self-defence and were in line with the UN Charter. No casualties were confirmed in the attack.
Following the incident, US President Donald Trump, in an address to the nation on 8 January, stated that the United States would never allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons. But he said Washington was still prepared to make peace with Tehran if its leadership “changed its behaviour”, indicating that there would be no immediate US escalation in the conflict.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin delivered his annual address to the country's parliament on 15 January, during which he proposed that the lower house choose the candidature of the prime minister instead of just approving the president's choice. After that, the entire Russian government resigned to provide the president with the opportunity to implement the changes. Putin then nominated Mikhail Mishustin, currently the head of the Federal Tax Service, as the new prime minister. The next day the Russian lower house, the State Duma, approved his nomination to the post as the country's prime minister.
The United Kingdom is holding a general election on 12 December 2019 that will see each parliamentary constituency elect one MP to the House of Commons under the country’s first-past-the-post system.
All 650 seats will be contested in the vote, with 326 needed for a majority.
UK Prime Minister Johnson called for an early vote in a bid to break the impasse over his proposed terms for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. According to the British PM, after the election, a new Parliament and government will be able to endorse the deal. This could put a lid on the political turmoil that the UK has been living with since the Brexit referendum in June 2016.
On 29 November, Met Police said a man had stabbed several people near and on London Bridge in the UK capital. Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu has confirmed that the suspect was shot dead on the spot, and the incident has been classified as a terrorist attack. Two people later died as a result of their injuries.
Daesh* leader, Abu Bakr Baghdadi, is believed to have died during a US' special military operation against the terrorist in Syria's Idlib on 26 October, after detonating a suicide vest. According to preliminary reports, two of his wives and one guard were also killed.
Daesh (also known as ISIS/ISIL/IS/ISlamic state) is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been clear about his determination to deliver Brexit by the October 31 deadline with or without a deal, despite facing strong opposition from lawmakers, including members of his own Conservative Party who oppose a no-deal Brexit.
Since January 2019, the UK Parliament has rejected the divorce deal that was negotiated with Brussels by the Theresa May government three times.
The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union in 2016 but the withdrawal has been delayed several times. After former Prime Minister Theresa May failed to come up with an acceptable plan to leave the bloc by 29 March of this year, the deadline was moved to 31 October.
On 9 October, Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring in Kurdish-dominated northeastern Syria with the stated goal of clearing the border area of “terrorists” (this term is broadly applied by Ankara to Kurdish forces) and create a security zone for a safe return of refugees.
Commenting on the operation, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pledged that Daesh* will not resurface in the area following the offensive.
Turkey's actions, however, have caused a massive backlash from the international community with some countries, namely - Finland and Norway, halting military cooperation with Ankara, and others thinking about imposing sanctions against Ankara.
*Daesh, also known as ISIS/IS/Islamic State, is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.
A major displacement crisis started in Europe in 2015, when over 1 million people made their way to European states in an effort to escape violence in their home countries. Most of the refugees come from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The crisis has put a strain on European economies, raised security issues within the EU as well as caused an upsurge in social tensions.