News Timeline: April 2018


April 3 – Europe: LATVIA
Latvia introduces the language reform, which will make the Latvian language compulsory in all post elementary schools beginning next year. Latvia’s Russian minority amounts to 26 percent and many people within it do not speak Latvian.[1] As Latvian is the only official language and knowledge of it is required for Latvian citizenship, 13 percent of the country’s population has non-citizen status.[2] Latvia says that language reform will improve access to equal opportunities for all citizens, but Russia calls the reform discriminatory and the forceful assimilation of Russian-speaking people. Russian parliament encourages the government to impose economic sanctions on Latvia and calls for boycott of some of its goods.[3]
More on the issue of Russian minority in Latvia 

April 7 – Middle East: SYRIA
The Syrian government is accused of using toxic chemicals during the bombing of Douma city on the outskirts of Damascus. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 70 people died and another 500 that checked in at medical facilities exhibited poisoning symptoms consistent with exposure to toxic chemicals, such as chlorine and sarin.[4] Any use of chemical weapons to cause harm is illegal under international law. The Syrian government and Syria’s ally Russia deny involvement and accuse rebel groups of fabricating the attack to hinder the army’s advances and provoke international military intervention.[5]
(April 14): In response to the chemical attacks, the United States, France, and the United Kingdom carry out a series of military strikes against a scientific research center in Damascus, a chemical weapons storage facility west of Homs, and another storage site and command post in Syria. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, condemns the airstrikes and calls for an emergency session of the UN Security Council to debate the military action.[6]

April 8 – Europe: HUNGARY
Hungary’s parliamentary elections bring big victory to Prime Minister Victor Orbán and his right-wing Fidesz–KDNP alliance party. The alliance preserves its two-thirds majority and Orbán will remain Prime Minister for a third consecutive term. Fidesz wins 67 percent of the vote which gives it 133 seats in the 199-seat parliament. They won two-thirds victories at both previous elections, in 2010 and 2014. The nationalist Jobbik party comes in second with 13 percent of the vote and the Socialists third with 10 percent, which gives them 26 and 20 seats in the parliament.[7] Orbán and Fidesz campaigned primarily on the issues of immigration promising to defend the country’s borders and block migration by Muslims. Orban is known to be a Eurosceptic who opposes further EU integration and praises Russian leader Vladimir Putin.[8] He is popular as during his time in office he oversaw strong economic growth (3.2 percent growth in 2017), growing wages and low unemployment.[9]

April 15 – Europe: RUSSIA
A Russian investigative journalist Maxim Borodin dies after falling from his fifth-floor apartment in Yekaterinburg. The editor in chief of Novy Den, where Borodin worked, says she rejects the idea that Borodin committed suicide.[10] Borodin wrote investigative articles on the government scandals, including Russian mercenaries fighting alongside the Syrian government troops. Officially, Russia’s military role mainly takes the form of air strikes. Some of these private military contractors were killed in Syria in a confrontation with U.S. forces in February this year.[11] Much of Russia’s media is controlled by the state. In Freedom House ranking, Russia’s media are not free, with 83 points out of 100.[12] Violence against journalists is common. There have been widespread reports of attacks, arrests, and threats against professional domestic and foreign journalists and social media users.[13]

Israel destroys another unfinished tunnel dug by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip, the longest and the deepest yet. It stretched from the city of Jabaliya in northern Gaza into Israel’s territory around the city of Nahal Oz, connecting with other tunnels, which are used to launch attacks. Israel has been using special equipment to detect such tunnels. It is also building a hi-tech barrier above and below ground along its border with Gaza that will stop new tunnels from being built.[14]
In pictures: Israel at 70 – seven major moments

April 16 – Global / Europe / International Organizations: THE COMMONWEALTH
The United Kingdom hosts the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting where leaders address the shared global challenges and agree to actions on how to create a better future for all. The Commonwealth is a voluntary association of 53 independent and equal sovereign states and is home to 2.4 billion people.[15] At the close of the summit, the leaders issue a Communiqué that outlines the Commonwealth’s agreements and commitments. Some of them include an agreement to ratify and implement the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, to address the stigma around disability, to strengthen the international response to the movement of refugees, to adopt a Declaration on the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda for Trade and Investment, to adopt the Commonwealth Blue Charter on sustainable development and protection of the world’s oceans, to implement the Chemical Weapons Convention, to work together to combat climate change – particularly with reference to small island developing states, as well as to counter extremism and human trafficking.[16]
About the Commonwealth

April 17 – Europe: ARMENIA
After finishing two consecutive 5-year terms as president, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan is appointed Prime Minister. The opposition accuses him of switching positions to stay in power and calls for protests. Mr Sargsyan has been criticized that during his tenure he failed to address the country’s widespread poverty and continuing Armenia’s tensions with Azerbaijan over the break-away Nagorno-Karabakh region and the Armenian military occupation of surrounding lands. He was also criticized for his close relations with Russia, where Vladimir Putin also switched between the positions of president and prime minister to stay in power.
(April 21): After several days of mass street protests, Serzh Sargsyan resigns and his Deputy Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan takes over.[17]

April 18 – Latin America: CUBA
Cuba’s parliament nominates Miguel Diaz-Canel, the only candidate, to replace Raul Castro as the country’s president. Diaz-Canel has held the position of vice president of Cuba’s Council of State since 2013, and as Castro’s main adviser, he has been picked and prepared for taking over as president. No drastic change within the Cuban system is expected. 86-year-old Castro will remain the head of the Communist Party, which determines all political life in the country.[18]

April 19 – Africa: SWAZILAND
Swaziland’s King Mswati III renames the country as the Kingdom of eSwatini.[19] Swaziland is Africa’s last absolute monarchy with King Mswati III as a ruler since 1986. He governs by decree, does not allow opposition, and controls the media. With 28 percent unemployment, it has a weak and deteriorating economy and suffers from severe poverty. Twenty-eight percent of its population is HIV/AIDS positive, the world’s highest rate. Main industries include soft drink concentrates, coal, forestry, sugar processing, textiles, and apparel, but many Swazis migrate to South Africa for work.[20]
Swaziland: A kingdom in crisis

April 25 – Africa: RWANDA
Rwandan authorities uncover four mass graves in the Gasabo district outside the capital Kigali that date back to the Rwandan genocide on 1994 and are believed to contain between 2,000 to 3,000 bodies. The authorities open an investigation to find and prosecute the perpetrators.[21] Rwanda genocide of 1994 was a planned campaign of mass killings committed by extremists from among Rwanda’s majority ethnic Hutu population who planned to kill the Tutsi minority and anyone who opposed those genocidal intentions. More than 800,000 civilians were killed the course of 100 days.[22]
Background on Rwandan genocide: 100 days of slaughter

April 27 – East Asia: NORTH KOREA / SOUTH KOREA
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un meets South Korean President Moon Jae-in in a historic meeting in South Korea. They both agree to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula and formally sign a peace agreement ending the Korean War by the end of this year. In 1953, both countries only signed an armistice. In a symbolic move, both leaders walk over the border between the two Koreas. They also agree to a cultural cooperation.[23]


[1] Central Intelligence Agency. “The World Factbook.” Latvia. 2 April 2018. Web. Accessed 24 April 2018.
[2] Ibid 1.
[3] “Russia threatens sanctions over Latvian language in schools.” BBC News. 3 April 2018. Web. Accessed 25 April 2018.
[4] The World Health Organization (WHO). “WHO concerned about suspected chemical attacks in Syria.” Statement: Media center. 11 April 2018. Web. Accessed 7 May 2018.
[5] McKenzie, Sheena. “Suspected Syria chemical attack may have affected 500 people, WHO says.” CNN. 11 April 2018. Web. Accessed 7 May 2018.
[6] Borger, Julian and Peter Beaumont. “Syria: US, UK and France launch strikes in response to chemical attack.” The Guardian. 14 April 2018. Web. Accessed 7 May 2018 from
[7] Hungary’s’ National Election Office. “Information on the composition of the National Assembly.”8 April 2018. Accessed 10 May 2018 from
[8] “Viktor Orban: Hungary PM re-elected for third term.” BBC News. 9 April 2018. Web. Accessed 10 May 2018.
[9] International Monetary Fund. “World Economic Outlook Database.” Hungary. January 2018. Web. Accessed 10 May 2018.
[10] Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. “Russian Investigative Reporter Dies After Fall From Window; Editor Rejects Suicide.” 15 April 2018. Web. Accessed 4 May 2018.
[11] “Russia admits dozens of Russian casualties in Syria battle.” BBC News. 20 February 2018. Web. Accessed 26 April 2018.
[12] Freedom House. “Freedom of the Press 2017.” Table of Country Scores. 2018. Web. Accessed 26 April 2018 from
[13] Freedom House. “Freedom of the Press 2017.” Russia Profile. 2018. Web. Accessed 26 April 2018 from
[14] “Israel destroys ‘longest and deepest’ Gaza tunnel.” BBC News. 15 April 2018. Web. Accessed 7 May 2018.
[15] The Commonwealth. “About us.” 2018. Web. Accessed 10 May 2018 from
[16] Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting London 2018. “Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting Communiqué ‘Towards a Common Future’” April 2018. Web. Accessed 10 May 2018 from
[17] “Serzh Sargsyan: Armenian PM resigns after days of protests.” BBC News. 23 April 2018. Web. Accessed 7 May 2018.
[18] Dickey, Christopher and Ingrid Arnesen. “Miguel Díaz-Canel Is the New Cuban President: Who’s Really Running Cuba?” The Daily Beast. 19 April 2018. Web. Accessed 25 April 2018.
[19] “Swaziland king renames country ‘the Kingdom of eSwatini’.” BBC News. 19 April 2018. Web. Accessed 26 April 2018.
[20] Central Intelligence Agency. “The World Factbook.” Swaziland. 16 April 2018. Web. Accessed 26 April 2018.
[21] Ssuuna, Ignatius. Mass Graves with 2,000 Bodies Discovered Two Decades After Rwanda Genocide.” Time. 26 April 2018. Web. Accessed 7 May 2018.
[22] “Rwanda genocide of 1994.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc.. 5 August 2016. Web. Accessed 8 May 2018.
[23] Hakyung Kate Lee Joohee Cho. “North Korea, South Korea agree to end war, denuclearize peninsula.” ABC News. 27 April 2018. Web. Accessed 4 May 2018.