The Atlas Newsletter - Volume 19

The Atlas Newsletter – World Updates & International News

Monday, June 5th, 2023

Good morning everyone,

Diving straight in, we see in Europe drone attacks on Moscow, Germany and Russia have diplomatic spats, and the US suspends Kosovo from NATO exercises. Over in the Middle East, an Egyptian police officer kills three Israeli soldiers, Turkey continues to hold up Sweden’s NATO bid, and the Saudis join with Iran for an alliance. In Africa, political unrest continues to shake Senegal and Uganda scores victories against militants, and South Africa seeks to find a way out of arresting Putin. In the Americas, Canada fights fires as the international community sends help, illegal mining takes a toll on Venezuela, and Argentina moves further towards "pro-choice". Over in Asia and Oceania, China cracks down on Tiananmen Square remembrance, and Pope Francis raises awareness in Mongolia.

It’s just another day at the office. Let's dive in:

- Joshua Paulo, Sebastien Gray, Trent Barr & the Atlas team

Failed North Korea Satellite Launch

(Photo - JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)

Sunday, June 4th, 2023: As South Korean military personnel tracked the launch of a planned and publicly announced orbital satellite, alarm was raised when suddenly the rocket being tracked split into dozens of pieces. It was preliminarily concluded that the launch had failed, a point eventually confirmed by the North Korean state media, KCNA. The report stated that the "space launch vehicle" crashed in the West Sea following a second stage rocket failure, adding that the fuel that was used was unstable.

South Korea then released photos of the crashed DPRK rocket, officially dubbed "Malligyong-1." According to South Korea’s Joint Chief of Staff, the rocket crashed into the West Sea some 200 kilometers west of Eocheong Island.

A second launch is expected in the next few days, with North Korea stating it will no longer give advanced warning of launches to the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Informing the IMO helps keep vessels out of the debris area should an incident like this crash occur. North Korean Senior Official Kim Yo Jong told the press that the IMO is a puppet of the U.S. and expressed his displeasure at a meeting of the UN Security Council that failed to agree on a statement or response concerning the launch due to interference from Russia and China. In the last five launches, North Korea has given at least 48 hours' notice so that debris and the actual trajectory of the launch do not interfere with civilian or military traffic.

Part of the DPRK’s official statement reads:

“The measures taken by the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to strengthen national defense capabilities are a thorough exercise of defense sovereignty in order to protect the safety of the state and people and safeguard peace and stability in the region from the increasingly reckless military hostile acts of the United States and its vassal forces.

This is a legitimate right of a sovereign state, which is clearly regulated by the UN Charter and relevant international laws, and individual international organizations have no authority or qualification to challenge it.”


May 29th, 2023 - A drone attack took place in Moscow, which damaged several buildings. Reportedly, the attack involved eight drones, five of which were shot down by Russian air defenses, whereas the other three were knocked out by signal-jamming technology. While Russia has blamed Ukraine for the attack, Ukraine has denied involvement. It is presently unclear what drone types were used in the attack, with experts disagreeing from the footage available, some saying Ukrainian, some saying Iranian. Though it is not confirmed, the majority consensus has been that it is likely to be a Ukrainian "Beaver" drone.

May 31st, 2023 - Russia and Germany’s diplomatic conflict has expanded as Germany closed three of its four consulates in Russia, closing its Novosibirsk, Kaliningrad, and Yekaterinburg consulates while keeping its St. Petersburg consulate open. Similarly, they also ordered Russia to close four of its consulates in Germany, leaving five other consulates and, of course, the embassy. The German restrictions come after Russia decided to limit the number of German diplomats allowed in the nation to 350, forcing 700 German diplomatic personnel to leave the country.

May 30th, 2023 - "I must say that at this moment we have asked Prime Minister Kurti to take urgent steps to achieve de-escalation in the north. There is no response to these requests of ours. So we are thinking about what our next steps will be. However, at this moment, you will not find much enthusiasm on the part of the USA to react to other interests of Kosovo, for example, to engage with countries that have not recognized Kosovo or to work actively in the trajectory of European and international integration of Kosovo", striking words from US Ambassador to Kosovo Jeff Hovenier after the situation in Kosovo continues to devolve following the injuring of 30+ NATO peacekeepers during a riot. The ambassador announced that, largely due to a lack of Kosovar cooperation with the US for de-escalation, Kosovo would be removed from the DEFENDER 23 military exercise. Kosovo has enjoyed NATO support for quite some time, which appears to be strained given present tensions.

Middle East

June 3rd, 2023 - Three Israeli soldiers and one Egyptian policeman are dead after two separate shootouts between several Israeli soldiers and the policeman inside the Israeli border. According to the claims, an Israeli soldier confronted an Egyptian policeman who had crossed into Israel while pursuing drug traffickers. It is unclear exactly why, but a shootout began in which the Egyptian officer killed two Israeli soldiers before leaving the area. Later on, after Israel discovered the two had been killed, the Egyptian officer was found by Israeli authorities, resulting in a second shootout that killed one more Israeli soldier as well as the Egyptian officer. Additionally, two more Israeli soldiers were wounded. Both Israel and Egypt have announced an investigation into the incident.

June 4th, 2023 - Jens Stoltenberg, the NATO Secretary General, has publicly asked Turkey not to veto Sweden’s NATO application ahead of a meeting set for a few days between Turkish, Swedish, and Finnish officials aimed at solving the remaining barriers for Turkey that would have them allow Sweden into the alliance. Stoltenberg stated that Sweden has "fulfilled its obligations", yet it remains unclear if Turkey will finally give in or not. Turkey and Sweden’s issues arise from Sweden’s significantly more friendly policy towards Kurdish organizations, some of which Turkey refers to as "terrorists". Hungary similarly has yet to allow Sweden’s accession, though they have been in diplomatic talks with Sweden for a while now.

June 3rd, 2023 - As the Middle East continues to move closer together diplomatically, Iran and Saudi Arabia seek to move closer militarily as well. Iranian Navy Commander Shahram Irani has announced that Iran, alongside Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, Iraq, Qatar, India, and Pakistan, is forming a "naval alliance". What exactly the alliance looks like and what duties it will perform were not stated, though he said it was to be formed soon. The alliance is particularly striking considering how recently Iran and Saudi Arabia re-established relations, only fixing them in March after 7 years of open hostility and proxy wars.


June 1st, 2023 - Over two dozen people have been killed in Senegal in widespread protests after the sentencing of opposition leader Ousmane Sonko. Protests have faced harsh crackdowns as the government also severed the nation's access to Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube. Sonko was sentenced to two years in prison for "corrupting youth," charges that originated from accusations that Sonko raped a 20-year-old woman working at a massage parlor in 2021, which Sonko and his supporters say are false and politically motivated. Though he was acquitted of the rape charge, he was found guilty of "immoral behavior" against someone under 21 years old. Several of President Macky Sall’s political opponents have had charges brought against them in the past, which made them ineligible to run against him in elections.

June 1st, 2023 - After Al-Shabaab militants attacked and seized a Ugandan military base in Somalia on May 26, the Ugandan military recaptured the base, inflicting "many casualties" upon the militants. They stated that they pursued a number of militants from the area and secured a number of supply routes into the region. Uganda’s military published several photos of them retrieving their dead and of the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia commander, Lieutenant General Sam Okiding, visiting wounded in the hospital.

An Ugandan soldier. (Photo - AFP)

May 31st, 2023 - South Africa’s government has announced it will be introducing a bill into parliament that would give them the power to choose whether or not to arrest someone wanted by the ICC. The announcement comes amid debate over whether South Africa will uphold its current law, which would require them to detain Russian President Putin if he ever entered the nation, as the ICC is seeking Putin for alleged war crimes. Both South Africa and Russia are members of the BRICS alliance. South Africa is due to host a BRICS summit in August, which Putin was invited to attend before the arrest warrant. Russia has yet to announce whether Putin intends to go to the conference.

The Americas

June 4, 2023 - A mine collapse has left at least 12 miners dead in southern Venezuela as of this Sunday due to flooding from heavy rains in the region. The mine initially flooded on Wednesday, trapping an estimated 112 people within the gold mine; however, rescue workers were unable to properly conduct rescue operations due to the extreme weather, postponing any operations until Saturday. The Talavera mine, located in El Callao, in Venezuela's Bolivar state, has reportedly been closed down for years; however, illegal miners still ventur into the mine in search of remaining gold, adding many rudimentary and often unsafe tunnels. The Talavera mine is located in southern Bolvar. "On Wednesday, there were heavy rains that caused damage to the area," Edgar Colina Reyes, the Secretary of Citizen Security of the Bolvar State, told the press. "Some artisanal miners were working there. The mine was flooded, and they ran out of oxygen and died of respiratory failure; that’s the reason." Illegal mining operations plague many South American countries in both abandoned and active mines. Illegal miners typically work alongside criminal gangs to traffic the illegally mined metals as well as provide security for the miners. The first rescue team consisted of eight state officials as well as eight more artisanal miners. The rescue team has managed to rescue three miners, according to an official report published on the 31st.

Illegal mining often involves the entire family, as seen here in Bolivar, Venezuela. (Photo - Oro Mortal/Transparencia Venezuela)

May 31, 2023 - Argentina has eased access to emergency contraceptive pills, according to a government announcement this Wednesday. Previously, Argentina required a prescription for the contraceptive, which many feminist groups have sought to overturn over the years. This move comes after the government legalized abortion up to 14 weeks in December 2020, leading many pro-life groups to express worry for the future of reproductive health. Before this ruling, abortion was only allowed in cases of rape or if the mother’s life was endangered. The Argentinian health ministry said the measure would help avoid unintentional pregnancies by overcoming "difficulties of access to health services, contraception supplies, and education" faced by some. "This removes an important barrier to access," Valeria Isla, director of sexual and reproductive health at the Health Ministry, told Reuters. "People can have this method of contraception as support before an emergency happens." Emergency contraceptive pills are hormonal pills that, if taken within 120 hours of unprotected sex, can prevent pregnancy by blocking the fertilization of the egg. Feminist groups across the country have lauded the decision as a breakthrough for reproductive rights, with Vanessa Gagliardi, leader of the Argentine feminist organization Juntas y a la Izquierda, saying the deregulation will help "de-stigmatize" the pill. However, the Argentinian pro-life group DerquiXlaVida claims "the state is essentially orienting itself towards promoting abortive measures. It's a way of recognizing the failure of pregnancy prevention, sex education, and the responsibility and even persecution of authors and promoters of sexual abuse."

June 1, 2023 - The Canadian military has been deployed to assist in fighting wildfires in Nova Scotia, as an estimated 18,000 Canadians living on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Halifax were forced to flee their homes. The military will provide both manpower and equipment to help relieve local firefighting forces "who have been working tirelessly around the clock to protect communities right across Nova Scotia," according to the Emergency Preparedness Minister, Bill Blair. Wildfires have swept across Canada since the start of early summer, with the northern nation suffering from 211 wildfires, 82 of which were considered "out of control," according to Blair. "These conditions this early in the season are unprecedented," Blair told reporters. "Due to climate change, similar extreme weather events may continue to increase in both frequency and severity across our country." The Canadian government has previously sent the military to the western province of Alberta to help quell forest fires there, with the province still suffering from 61 wildfires, 16 of which are considered out of control. Multiple nations have sent their own firefighters to assist Canada in quelling its numerous wildfires, with the United States having sent 800 firefighters to battle the fires, mostly in Alberta, while another 100 were sent to Nova Scotia. Australia and New Zealand have sent 224 firefighters, and South Africa is sending more than 200.

Asia and Oceania

June 4, 2023 - At least 23 people have been detained in Hong Kong following a public commemoration of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on the 34th anniversary of the massacre. Hong Kong police have stated that those arrested "breached public peace" and "obstructed police officers." A large number of the arrests occurred in Victoria Park, where a candlelight vigil was held for those killed during the Tiananmen Square massacre. The park is known to have held these vigils annually, but as Hong Kong police have increased restrictions on speech and public protests, both armored vehicles and hundreds of police conducted stops and searches on those attending the vigil, arresting those they believed held "seditious intent." Those arrested were between the ages of 20 and 74, according to police, and included activist Alexandra Wong, 67, who carried a bouquet of flowers; a man who held a copy of "35th of May", a play on the Tiananmen crackdown; and an elderly man standing alone on a street corner with a candle, according to Reuters. The arrests have drawn backlash from the UN, with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights calling on Twitter for the release of anyone detained for "exercising freedom of expression and peaceful assembly." However, China's Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday that "today's Hong Kong is moving from chaos to stability and prosperity along the right track of "one country, two systems". Officials in Hong Kong have warned citizens to abide by the law but have failed to clarify if the vigil violated the national security law China imposed on Hong Kong in 2020 after pro-democracy protests.

The League of Social Democrats leader Chan Po Ying (C) argues with police officers before being detained while holding a Tiananmen Square vigil (Photo - Peter PARKS / AFP)

June 3, 2023 - The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will make an apostolic journey to Mongolia despite the nation containing only 1,300 Catholics, leading some observers to speculate the visit may have political motivations due to its proximity to China and Russia. The news came as part of a brief statement on Saturday by Matteo Bruni, the Director of the Holy See Press Office. Bruni said in the statement that the trip was being made at the invitation of the country's president and that details would be announced in the next few weeks. Many speculate that the visitation could be an attempt to help Catholics currently facing mistreatment in China, while others speculate that it may be related to the Pope’s continuous efforts to negotiate a ceasefire in the ongoing Russian-Ukrainian war. Only 60% of Mongolia’s population identifies as religious, according to the US State Department, with only 2.2% of those who do identifying as Christians. This, however, isn’t an uncommon practice for Pope Francis, as he has visited many countries where Christians are the minority in a bid to raise awareness about people and problems in what he has called the peripheries of society and the world. Mongolia has strived to maintain its independence from both its previous benefactor, Russia, and its longtime occupier, China. However, the nation still heavily relies on Russia for its energy needs, while China buys more than 90% of its exports, mainly mined materials such as coal and copper.

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