The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 14

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, May 1st, 2023

Good morning everyone,

We are sending the newsletter in the afternoon again this week, as no doubt you've noticed. We are still gathering data on the opportune time for our readers and appreciate any feedback we receive. Please note that there is no set change and that the newsletter is still set for every Monday morning going forward after today.

Now, to the news. In Europe, there are Labor Day protests throughout several nations as Azerbaijan continues the blockade of Artsakh and Wagner Group makes an announcement. In the Middle East, Iran and the US trade blows, the Taliban begin their first major international operations, and the Arab League discusses the return of Syria. More internal strife abounds in Africa as protests reject the United Nations and the war in Sudan continues. In the Americas, Canada has passed a controversial new law, and the United States seeks to stop illegal border crossings. Throughout Asia and Oceania, China seeks to expand the Belt and Road Initiative, as New Zealand speaks of independence from the Commonwealth.

So we seem to be having just another day at the office. Let's see what's up:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, & the Atlas team


(Photo : Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

Sunday, April 30th, 2023: It has been approximately 431 days since Russian forces crossed the border into Ukraine and the war began in earnest. Since then, much of the world has rallied to one side or the other, with dozens of nations and organizations showing where their allegiances lie. The fighting itself has been brutal and not at all how many experts predicted it would unfold, with both sides making lightning maneuvers in offensives and counteroffensives, then falling into fighting holes as artillery rains on their positions. Both Ukraine and Russia have struck targets deep within enemy territory at targets far from the battlefield, and both have continued to reject the peace process so long as the other does not meet their demands. Overall, it’s hard to predict how this will end; however, let’s take a look at some of the recent developments so as to give us a clearer picture.

In regards to the fighting, Russia continues to make gains around Bakhmut, even as Wagner Group threatens to withdraw from the region as it continually fights a political battle with the Kremlin. Wagner’s leader, Yevgeny Prigozhin, stated that casualties would be "five times fewer if we had enough ammunition." Despite the gains, Ukraine continues to hold a strategic logistics route connecting towns throughout the area, making defenses still rigid.

Four civilians have been killed and two wounded after Ukrainian artillery struck a village in Russia’s Bryansk region, according to the local government. Ukrainian attacks on Russian territory have been increasing as of late as they receive more advanced western systems capable of long-range attacks. Ukrainian drones also struck a significant Russian fuel depot, sparking hysteria as the mushroom cloud was visible from miles away, arousing immediate fears of a nuclear attack.

Refugees continue to pour from Ukraine into neighboring countries as Poland and Romania struggle to take on the influx of displaced peoples. Pope Francis, during a visit to Hungary, urged the people there to open their homes to refugees from all over Europe. He also acknowledges that the Vatican is involved in the peace process and thoroughly supports an end to the war.

China and France have been working openly to garner peace in Ukraine. President Emmanuel Macron continues his regular phone calls with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, discussing the military needs of Ukraine and ways to urge a peaceful resolution. China has operated somewhat as a neutral mediator for Russia, with the Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister noting that China mediating peace is "not unrealistic". However, despite the catastrophic losses on both sides and the world’s insistence on peace, the war in Ukraine continues with no end in sight.


April 28th, 2023 - After effectively blockading Artsakh for well over 100 days, Azeri "Eco-Activists" have stopped their protest, being replaced by an Azeri military checkpoint blocking the Berdzor corridor, effectively maintaining the blockade. The Berdzor corridor is the only road connecting Armenia and Artsakh. The checkpoint, which was constructed on April 23, is in violation of both the 2020 ceasefire as well as an ICC ruling ordering Azerbaijan to keep the corridor unhindered. The military checkpoint has drawn condemnation from Russia, the EU, the US, and several other nations. While Azerbaijan says that they intend to open the checkpoint to civilian travel, Armenia has accused them of establishing it to further the blockade and prepare for the "ethnic cleansing" of Artsakh.

A photo of the Azeri military checkpoint.

April 28th, 2023 - Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has stated that the PMC group will "cease to exist in some rather short period of time". On top of the substantial casualties Wagner has accumulated throughout the war, Prigozhin maintains that they have faced significant supply issues from the Russian military, mostly of ammunition. While the Russian MoD has stated that they are providing Wagner with enough, Prigozhin denies this and has stated that the Russian military continuously fails to supply Wagner with enough ammo, which consequently forces him to head into battle ill-equipped. Should Wagner dismantle, this could spell trouble for Russia, as Wagner is one of the primary forces presently pushing for the capture of Bakhmut and has been instrumental in much of the fighting throughout Ukraine.

May 1st, 2023 - Italy, France, and the Netherlands have seen extremely large Labor Day protests and widespread strikes as citizens fight for better wages. France has seen extensive protests and strikes for several months now, particularly after President Macron forced the wildly unpopular Pension Reform bill past parliament. These protests saw clashes with police, with molotov cocktails being thrown in Paris and cars set ablaze in Lyon. In Italy, the government rolled back anti-poverty subsidies, saying they were costing too much. The subsidies benefited approximately 4 million people, giving them on average 550 euros a month. The subsidy is to be replaced by an "inclusion cheque", capped at 500 euros, only for qualifying households. In the Netherlands, the largest union in the country took to the streets, demanding higher wages.

Middle East

 April 27th-28th, 2023 - The Iranian Navy has seized a Marshall Islands-flagged oil tanker, the 'Advantage Sweet'. According to the Iranian Navy statement, the tanker collided with an Iranian Navy vessel in the Indian Ocean. They further claim the collision killed two Iranian sailors and injured several more. Following the collision, their statement said the tanker kept sailing, making "erratic" maneuvers and not stopping to render any sort of aid. An Iranian helicopter team was then landed on the ship and proceeded to take control of the crew and vessel. The following day, on the 28th, the US Navy seized an Iranian tanker, highly likely in response to the Iranian seizure. Tit-for-tat trades between Iranian and American forces without direct confrontation are a common occurrence.

The ‘Advantage Sweet’, the tanker seized by Iran (Photo from Yoruk Isik/Reuters).

April 27th, 2023 - The Taliban Ministry of Foreign Affairs has announced that it is evacuating Afghan nationals from Sudan amid their worsening crisis. Approximately 120 Afghan nationals who were within the country are set to be rescued via coordination with the Saudi military. "We assure our compatriots of our continued efforts for the safe evacuation of remaining Afghans stranded in Sudan and will utilize all means available thereof", stated Foreign Affairs spokesman Abduk Qahar Balkhi. A significant number of countries are in the process of evacuating their citizens from the fighting in Sudan. Both the government and the RSF have agreed to temporary ceasefires in certain areas to allow for humanitarian corridors for other countries to evacuate embassy staff and citizens.

May 1st, 2023 - Jordan is set to hold talks on a potential Syrian return to the Arab League. Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad will be present at the meeting along with his Egyptian, Iraqi, and Saudi counterparts to discuss a Jordanian plan to reach a settlement. Two weeks ago, negotiations were held in Saudi Arabia with a lower-level official seeking Syria’s return to the league, but these talks failed. Syria was suspended from the Arab League in 2011 after the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War, but has recently been resurfacing in the diplomatic world as the nations of the Middle East move to no longer isolate Syria. The league is divided on whether Syria should be allowed back and, if so, on what terms.


April 28th, 2023 - "There has also been a well-orchestrated and financed negative media campaigns targeted at my personality and direct written false accusations of the EACRF’s complacency on the handling of the M23 group"—an excerpt from a letter attributed to Kenyan Major General Jeff Nyagah, the commander of the East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The letter is to be his letter of resignation. He offered several reasons for this, including an "aggravated threat" to his "safety and a systematic plan to frustrate efforts of the EACRF". While the letter's legitimacy has been affirmed by the DRC, Kenya itself has denied it, stating that it is a fake and that the general has not resigned. The EACRF has been facing harsh criticism from the DRC, who wishes it to actively engage M23 rebels instead of the peacekeeping role it has been playing.

The alleged letter attributed to Maj. Gen. Nyagah, which Kenya says is fake.

May 1st, 2023 - Former Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok has stated that if fighting in Sudan is not soon stopped, it could devolve into a civil war that he says will be worse than that which was seen in Syria and Libya. Fighting is ongoing in 12 out of 18 of Sudan’s states, and thus far at least 528 people have been killed and 4600 injured, though the number is likely to be significantly higher. The UN’s World Food Programme is saying that the situation could also bring about a worsening food crisis, stating that 15 million people in Sudan are already reliant upon aid so that a famine does not happen.

April 28th, 2023 - Hundreds of protestors gathered in the capital of Mali, Bamako, where they demanded the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, leave. Many protestors brought with them Russian flags as they demanded the UN’s withdrawal and stated they were no longer needed. Though Mali has a very large militancy problem and is currently engaging with groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, they have recruited the help of Russian paramilitary groups after forcing the French military to leave the country. The protests were supported by the Military Junta in charge of the country and were called for by a number of local politicians. MINUSMA frequently accuses the Malian government and military of human rights violations

The Americas

April 27th, 2023 - Canada’s controversial "Bill C-11" has passed the Senate and become law after more than a year of debate and revisions. Bill C-11 is a large reform to Canada’s "Broadcasting Act", which has remained unchanged since 1991, that seeks to tackle the problem of online content. The bill mandates that large online social media and streaming platforms (such as Netflix, YouTube, Spotify, Disney+, and many more) must invest in and promote Canadian creators. While supporters say it will give Canadians equal opportunities in regards to online content creation, critics say it will filter what people see, forcing them to see Canadian content over what they would normally be viewing, with the opposition Conservative party calling it the "Online Censorship bill", vowing to repeal it should they be elected.

Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez as he debates the bill in parliament (Photo from The Canadian Press/Sean Kilpatrick).

April 30th, 2023 - The US government has been asking Canada to reinstate its visa requirements for Mexican nationals, according to US Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Canada previously had a visa requirement for Mexicans, established in 2009 under Stephen Harper, but it was cut in 2016, the year following Trudeau’s election. The United States is seeking to curb illegal crossings of migrants from the Canadian border, and as the US requires a visa for Mexican nationals, the US is saying it is much easier to travel to Canada, which does not require a visa, and then proceed to travel to the US. Crossings from Canada to the US are incredibly low compared to the southern border, but they are seeing a significant rise. In the first six months of the 2023 fiscal year, the border saw 2000 detentions of border crossers, whereas last year saw 882 altogether.

Asia and Oceania

May 1st, 2023 - As many former British colonies consider their past and what role it should play in the future, New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Chris Hipkins, has stated he would like to one day see his nation become fully independent as a republic rather than the present system. While New Zealand, along with several other former British colonies (such as Australia, Canada, and Jamaica), operates independently, the British monarch is technically their Head of State, though the role has been almost entirely ceremonial. Though he espoused wishes for full independence, he said it is not something he intends to push for during his leadership. "Ideally, in time, New Zealand will become a fully independent country, will stand on our own two feet in the world, as we by and large do now. I don't think that swapping out the governor-general for some other form of head of state is necessarily an urgent priority right now, though".

New Zealand Prime Minister Chris Hipkins as he speaks in parliament before heading to the UK for King Charles III’s coronation (Photo from Mark Mitchell/New Zealand Herald).

April 27th, 2023 - China has proposed a railway project in Pakistan that would cost 58 billion USD, in the latest development of their "Belt and Road" initiative. The railway would go from the Chinese border with Pakistan to the Pakistani port city of Gwadar. While a Chinese government study termed the investment "worthwhile", the move is likely to raise some concerns in the West as China seeks to directly counteract western influence. The Belt and Road initiative seeks to build trade infrastructure throughout the Middle East, Africa, and Asia in order to decrease Chinese reliance on western trade routes while also making other countries further dependent on China.

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