Britain started the process of leaving the European Union. Theresa May, the country’s prime minister, officially triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon treaty in a letter hand-delivered to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council. See here and here

Scotland’s devolved parliament voted to request from the British government permission to hold a second independence referendum. However, both Mrs May and Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the opposition, want any poll to be delayed until after Brexit.

Street cred

Demonstrators staged anti-corruption protests in nearly 100 cities across Russia, responding to a call by the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. The protests focused on the alleged illicit wealth of Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister. A court sentenced Mr Navalny to 15 days in jail for organising an unauthorised protest. See article

German authorities said they were investigating whether Turkey’s intelligence services had spied on Turkish-German citizens whom they suspected of allegiance to the exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen. Turkey believes Mr Gulen was behind an attempted coup to overthrow its government last July, and has jailed over 40,000 people in ongoing purges. Germany said any foreign espionage on its soil would be a criminal offence.

Boyko Borisov and his pro-European, centre-right GERB party came first in Bulgaria’s parliamentary elections with 33% of the vote. The win paves the way for Mr Borisov to serve a third term as prime minister. The Socialists, who lean towards Russia, came second with 27% of the vote.

The Hungarian government proposed new higher education laws which the Central European University (CEU) in Budapest said would force it to close. The CEU, one of the country’s top universities, was founded by the liberal Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros. Hungary’s nationalist prime minister, Viktor Orban, who says he wants his country to become an “illiberal democracy”, has a long-standing feud with Mr Soros.

To jaw-jaw

Over the objections of Venezuela’s socialist government, members of the Organisation of American States held a debate on the country’s humanitarian crisis and the government’s assault on its democracy. The group stopped short of suspending Venezuela and called for dialogue. Talks brokered by the Vatican failed to reach any agreement.

Donald Trump, America’s president, signed an executive order aimed at undoing environmental rules introduced by Barack Obama. Mr Trump hopes to bring back coal-mining jobs. His critics point out that their disappearance owes more to greater efficiency than to hostile regulations. See article

A whodunit

Fighting between coalition forces and Islamic State continued in Mosul. America’s top commander in Iraq, investigating the collapse of a building in the city that killed as many as 200 civilians, said “we probably had a role in these casualties.” However, Lieut-General Stephen Townsend suggested further investigation would be required to assess whether Islamic State coerced civilians into the building and rigged it with explosives following coalition air strikes.

Unrest in the Democratic Republic of Congo grew as Catholic bishops withdrew from mediating between the government and opposition. Joseph Kabila’s mandate as president expired in December but no poll has yet been held.

Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, recalled the country’s finance minister, Pravin Gordhan, from an investor roadshow—sparking speculation that he may be fired. Mr Gordhan, who is trying to curb cronyism, has been at odds with the president over the past year.

Ahmed Kathrada, an anti-apartheid activist, died in Johannesburg, South Africa. He had been sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964 along with Nelson Mandela. More recently, he had become a critic of the corruption that riddles the current government.

An explosive issue

Police and soldiers battled four terrorists at an apartment building in Bangladesh. One of them detonated a bomb at a police cordon nearby, killing six people and wounding 50 others, in the country’s first indiscriminate suicide bombing. Members of the armed forces killed the other three. See article

Prosecutors in South Korea asked a court for an arrest warrant for former president Park Geun-hye, who was removed from office earlier this month by the constitutional court. The prosecutors warn Ms Park may destroy evidence in the corruption scandal that led to her impeachment.

An American immigration judge granted asylum to Amos Yee, a teenage blogger from Singapore. The judge ruled that Mr Yee’s repeated prosecution in Singapore for hate speech had been a pretext to punish him for his criticism of the government. See article

The Australian government abruptly cancelled a parliamentary vote on an extradition treaty with China. The Chinese authorities’ detention of a Chinese academic working at an Australian university had sparked much critical commentary in Australia about China’s judicial system.

Hobson’s choice            

Carrie Lam was elected as Hong Kong’s next leader by a committee of nearly 1,200 residents of the territory, most of them supporters of the Communist Party in Beijing. The former head of Hong Kong’s civil service will take up her post on July 1st, succeeding Leung Chun-ying. She will have a tough job winning over the public, who polls suggested would have preferred her main rival, John Tsang.

China’s foreign ministry confirmed reports that the country’s president, Xi Jinping, will meet his American counterpart, Donald Trump, at Mar-a-Lago, Mr Trump’s resort in Florida, on April 6th. It will be the first face-to-face encounter between the two. Mr Trump has strongly criticised China over trade and security issues.

China and North Korea opened a new airline route between Dandong, a Chinese city on their border, and Pyongyang, North Korea’s capital. The route will be operated by North Korea’s flag carrier, Air Koryo, the world’s worst airline according to Skytrax, an aviation website.